Heyla folks, Fenrir here with this week’s edition of Give it a Shot, where staff here at MoarPowah try to convince you to like a Thing that we happen to like. Yay! We all know that I love jabbing on and on about fan culture and literary analysis–and today I’d like to introduce a new YA novel that combines both of these disparate loves into one. (GASP)
Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl follows Cath, an avid Simon Snow fan, who must deal with the usual dangers of college life: a growing social schism with her twin sister, cute boys that don’t understand fandom, and the perils of plagiarism, frat parties, and other shenanigans. Oh, and she needs to sort through all this real-life drama while also updating her monumental fanfic devoted to her favorite Simon Snow slash pairing–making Catch an unconventional, but terribly endearing, nerdy heroine.
Rainbow Rowell–also known for Eleanor & Park–gets fandom, which is probably one of the biggest highlights of Fangirl. She understands the intricacies of fandom and doesn’t downplay it as some nerdy escape into fantasy but also devotes time to illustrating the fact that fandom is just one of the ways that people learn to communicate and interact. Estranged twin sisters Cath and Wren (their mother had a foul sense of humor) originally bonded over their shared love of Simon Snow before social pressure to be apart and “unique” creates a rift that is–unsurprisingly–mediated by rekindling that love and perhaps expressing it through writing (fanfic or otherwise).
And it’s in her honest depiction of a lonely person finding release and confidence through an online persona and online activity–without express vehemence of disapproval of finding the Internet as a source of solace–that won me over with this breakout novel. Cath is a familiar figure to people who may browse through fan-forums–a bit awkward socially, sure, however a well-spring of creativity and eloquent writing–or well, at least when it comes to justifying how her favorite rival male characters are totally into each other. Cath isn’t a caricature of a fan, no worries there, and she holds her own as a person with her own strengths, weaknesses, and anxieties that actually serve to explain why fanfiction writing means so much to her.
Plus, as far as YA novels are concerned, Rowell is pretty good about writing charming romantic situations. Don’t worry about any weird possessive behavior or unhealthy Stockholm syndrome destinies to glue romantic interests together. In fact, Rowell cheerfully turns the usual “geeky-guy-with-a-hot-girlfriend” trope on its head with Cath and her beau–while also creating an interesting situation where both sides learn to show interest in their interests, without ridicule even.
So yes, bonus points for Cath never being told to “grow up” about Simon Snow–rather, in a very positive way, Fangirl stresses the importance of building relationships and support systems both on and off the Internet, which makes it a pretty poignant tale for Millenials who seem to thrive on both that online and offline presence.
Overall, Fangirl is a pretty charming novel that depicts a pretty positive outlook on fandom and its creative output–definitely a must-read for anyone who is involved in fandom, and who may be looking for a pretty unique YA! BTW, cover art is courtesy of the fantastic Ginger Haze.