I found Rainbow by accident. A few years ago, I was scrolling through the library’s electronic audiobook catalog, feeling underwhelmed, when I saw a novel titled Attachments. The synopsis was by far the most interesting, so I went for it. I have to stop here and (reluctantly) admit to you that I’m a bit of a book snob. To my delight, though, I was attached to hooked on Attachments in no time, and by the end of the story, I was a committed Rainbow Rowell fan.
Fast-forward three years (past her second novel, Eleanor & Park, which is equally stunning and another must-read). My mom called me and wouldn’t stop gushing about Fangirl. When I looked it up and saw Rainbow’s name on the cover, I needed no further prodding. The story follows Cath—an introverted and angsty college freshman—through her first year at the University of Nebraska. While her twin sister Wren flings herself eagerly into campus life, Cath is resolutely stuck in the comfortable bounds of her high school existence. Namely, the world of Simon Snow—a fantasy series reminiscent of Harry Potter. Cath’s alter ego, Magicath, is practically a celebrity in Simon Snow fandom, as the author of a popular fan fiction series, Carry On, Simon.
By the end of her first semester, Cath is feeling overwhelmed. She’s juggling an unpredictable roommate, a shifty new writing partner, the standoffish and erratic Wren, deadlines for classwork between writing the next installment of Carry On, Simon, and the stress of her dad’s manic episodes. Not to mention her growing feelings for Levi, her roommate’s charming and attentive best friend. Magicath may be brave and courageous on the pages of Carry On, Simon, but can Cath Avery live as boldly in the shifting landscape of her own, real life?
From the first page, I felt connected to Cath and I really grew to admire her. She’s unapologetic about things I find myself making excuses for in my own life: being introverted and insecure and vulnerable. But as in real life, she’s blind to some of her own flaws. And that’s the charm of this story—at its heart, Fangirl, is just about navigating the uncharted waters of college life, but it has that elusive quality of being both entertaining and true-to-life. For a few days after I finished the book, I had withdrawals! I really missed having Cath and Levi and Wren and Reagan in my life. That’s the mark of a great story—its power to stick with you after you’ve closed the cover. It’s one of the reasons I LOVE reading Rainbow Rowell; she writes believable characters in ordinary circumstances, but with such insight and affection that they take up space in my life. Rowell’s next novel, Landline, is coming out in July, and OMG I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON IT.
Have you read Fangirl? I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Which writers have turned you into an avid fan?