Welcome to the third edition of my unforgettable YA book series. Today’s book has, is and will be many people’s favorite young adult book—or book—it’s Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
Now from the cover, you’d think it’s such a cute little book for teenage girls. And you’d be both right and wrong. You’ll be right on the cute part—twin sisters Cath and Wren going to college, both fan-fiction writers of Simon Snow, a boy wizard and “the chosen one” Simon Snow (a nod to the Harry Potter phenomenon in our world); but this book is not only about being cute and is definitely not only for teenage girls.
I love how Rainbow Rowell explores the issues of growing up—or those of resisting it in this novel. There was a time, I am sure, we have experienced the similar angst in life. Do you stay loyal to your loved one, the one you have been with since eternity, the one you are so close to that people become used to treating you as one? But what about your own place in the world? What about your own dreams?
It’s also quite interesting to include Cath’s fan-fiction or pieces of the “canon” of Simon Snow novels (which are fictional in a unique sense, until Rowell wrote Carry On later) in the otherwise very “slice of life” contemporary narrative. It enriches and also becomes part of the characterization. It spices up and disrupt the pace of the book—not in a bad way. And above all, it is a nod to the amazing writing scenes in the world since the internet happened.
I have held it off for as long as I can—now let’s talk about Cath and Levi. It’s not I don’t like the romance part of the book—I love it, in fact. I didn’t talk about it right away simply because I don’t want you to think Fangirl is all about the romance. Teen romance can often come off as too edgy and cringe-worthy—too intense—especially when you read it as an adult. But I like Levi, who believes he can’t read but can only be read to. Levi who is nice to everyone. Levi who, at last, finds out the difference between just being nice and loving someone. More importantly, I love how Cath and Levi spend a lot of time together and learn about their feelings for each other. That’s so much better than the infatuation you see in Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, not because they romanticise things a bit too much, but because the relationships that are made “meant to be” are just too easy and unrealistic for me to care about.
Fangirl doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I think that’s why it’s such an enjoyable and satisfying read. You read it, finish it quickly, but the characters and their quirky warmth stay with you for a long while after you close the book.