I’l try to make this less of an ode to my favourite YA contemporary and more of a helpful review, but I can’t make any promises, because Fangirl is my absolute favourite contemporary and you should read it. Now.
Late one evening I was scrolling the eBook collection on my library’s website, when I happened across a title that seemed familiar to me, Fangirl. For a moment I considered where I’d heard it before, and I remembered the name from one late night of being stuck in the Booktube vortex. The review I’d watched hadn’t been the best one, so I’m not exactly sure why I loaned the eBook from the library and opened it up straight away. I don’t like contemporary on my best day, and a contemporary that a contemporary lover disliked? Well, I must have really been in some strange head space. Prepared to dislike it, and wondering why I was even going to read it, I got the surprise of my life when I was hooked by the first page (I was going to say he first sentence but considering that is “There was a boy in my room.” We’ll go with the first page).
Cath is a freshman is university, and also the writer of a fairly famous fan fiction. Fangirl follows her as she navigates her first year, her first love, and a bunch of old fears. I’m going to get straight out there and say that I read this book (which comes in at about 440 pages) in one sitting. At first, I rated it four stars (I have no idea what I was thinking), but when I woke the next morning, I was thinking about Fangirl all day, and I knew I needed a copy of my own. I got the hardback on special for a wild AU$16, and as soon as it arrived in the mail I reread it cover to cover, twice. I’m aware this is a little excessive, but for me, Fangirl was one of those books I just connected to.
“She’d majored in English, hoping that meant she could spend the next four years reading and writing. And maybe the next four years after that.”
Of course, it’s not without it’s flaws, as no book is. The main character, Cath, is not the most relatable of characters and I think this is a main point of criticism from people who don’t enjoy the book. Cath has social anxiety, but it’s depicted in quite a subtle way – there are only a few things here and there that indicate how she feels. Cath doesn’t visit the food hall for her first few weeks (or months?) at university. Some people may find this unbelievable, but I find it relatable. I have social anxiety, and I did a very similar thing to Cath while I was at university, for the same reasons as her. I didn’t visit the university’s food hall until my thrid year at university because I was too freaked out I wouldn’t know how to use it properly and I would hold everyone up. Look, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but that’s how it was. Granted, I didn’t live on campus and I could bring my own packed lunch in, I still find myself relating to Cath in this respect. Another point of criticism of the book (which is much more a criticism of Carry On than Fangirl) is that Cath’s fan fiction is obviously based off Harry Potter. I personally don’t take issue with this, but people who do take issue with Fanfiction as a whole, probably won’t enjoy this story a great deal. There were also some moments that I really wanted to skip over the Fanfiction snippets, and I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of Cath’s reading to Levi during some important moments.
“The whole point of fanfiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them. The story doesn’t have to end. You can stay in this world, this world you love, as long as you want, as long as you keep thinking of new stories.”
As you can probably tell from above, I liked Cath. We always find a book particularly special when we can relate to it, like a little piece of our own soul is written upon the pages, like somehow, despite having never met them, the author somehow gets you, and you know that your weirdness is not weird at all. Cath was that character for me. In my first year of university I wrote a rather popular fanfiction (I will never tell you anything about it), and it was something of a strange thing for my friends to find out about, that I would get comments and reviews written like fanmail, that I had people waiting for me to update the story (and getting a little cranky when I was a little slow). So, with Cath’s anxiety and fanfiction writing, I found her easily relatable. I also particularly liked the university setting, I find high school settings a little… well, I’m not the biggest fan. I’m glad I’m out of high school, I don’t really want to put myself back in. Another one of my favourite things about Fangirl is the pacing of the story. I fount that everything moved at a perfect speed, the chapters were well structured, and I never wanted to stop reading.
After my third time reading Fangirl I admonished myself for first giving it 4 out of 5 stars, and upped my rating to a full five out of five stars.
“How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, ‘I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.”
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