I read Fangirl years ago, well before this blog, so I can’t give you a “first time” review. However, after reading this gem the second time, I can easily say I loved it even more. I was introduced to Rainbow Rowell’s books via an online book club, and I was skeptical. Her works sounded too cute for me. My first of hers was Eleanor & Park, which dealt with difficulties like bullying and a difficult family. I quickly realized there was more than “cute” to this books.
My next book was Fangirl. And as much as I loved Eleanor & Park, Fangirl will always be my favorite of hers. I’ve read dozens of coming-of-age stories, but the main character in this one, Cath, really just captured my attention. She’s off to college, separated from her twin, Wren, and really struggling. Cath and Wren write fan fiction. But Wren has a new roommate and the divide between the twins is growing, much to Cath’s horror. The fan fiction is about Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-like series that Cath and Wren are obsessed with. They post their story on a fan fic site and have tens of thousands of readers. Cath is struggling to keep up with the story, manage her relationship (or lack thereof) with Wren, attend classes, keep tabs on her manic dad, and avoiding the mother who abandoned them when they were young. In short, Cath is juggling a lot. She feels the weight of the world, she’s trying to do her best, anxiety is hitting hard. All of this is so familiar to me. Although I’m far removed from college, dealing with a lot while you have anxiety is entirely relatable.
Enter Levi. Cath’s roommate, Reagan, has a “friend” Levi. Friend, boyfriend, who really knows. But Levi quickly becomes a presence in Cath’s world, just because he’s always around. Cath begins to realize Levi isn’t going anywhere, so she opens up a bit and lets him in. Levi is simply one of the best male characters in YA these days. He’s honest, far from perfect, and kind. Basically, he’s real. He’s not some ridiculous unattainable perfect boy who mistreats girls who flock to him anyway.
I love this book. I flew through it in just a couple of days. Rowell does an excellent job capturing how life gets rough, but how leaning on others can get you through the rough spots. Representation matters and reading about another person with anxiety is such a comfort. I get Cath. She is me.