You’ve probably heard of Rainbow Rowell (yes, that is her real name) YA novelist taking the world by storm, even if you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering her writing. She is the author of five novels, but Fangirl is something special. It was published in 2013, and I read it the summer after my freshman year of college. It’s about a young woman named Cath, who goes off to college with her twin sister and has to adjust to major life changes with this new phase of her life.
Rowell writes dynamic, fluid characters who don’t conform to archetypes. A good writer can make you love a character, but a great one can make you identify just a bit with each one. Refreshingly, the main focus is on Cath and her sister Wren, not their romantic subplots. Fangirl explores the deep complexity of sisterhood, jealousy, feelings of inferiority, and emotional isolation. Their differences are explored throughout the novel, as we see them starting at the same university and living separately for the first time. The twins experience a lot, and the ways that they grow and change make them better.
Fangirl emotionally impacted me because parts of the story felt so true to my life. I struggled through my first year of college, and it was reassuring to read about someone similar. Cath didn’t always feel like me, but her experiences felt like mine. Cath has realistic burdens, from troubled relationships with her family to her desire to escape into a fictional world. As in reality, conflicts go unresolved. Not everyone is unscathed, but life goes on.
Another reason this book is important is the portrayal of mental illness. Cath and her father suffer from different neurosis, and it isn’t simple, because illness isn’t pretty. There is no quick solution to their problems. Importantly, Cath is loved, despite her issues. She still deserves love. That’s crucial, because people think that if they show the part of them that is vulnerable and imperfect, they won’t be seen as worthy of love. Cath learns that opening herself up can be painful, but rewarding.
Cath will make you laugh and cry in the same paragraph, in the same sentence. I was hesitant to read Fangirl, but I’m so happy I did. I promise, if you pick it up, you will be too. Rainbow Rowell in general is great reading, she has a few books for adult and some YA novels. Eleanor & Park and Carry On are young adult novels. Attachments and Landline are for adult readers. I have read them all, and I can say that they only improve upon rereading. I can definitely recommend all of them for discovering your inner fangirl.