Writing and Romance: ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

Last week I wrote about why I love YA romance so much, and this week I’m following up with one of the best YA romances I’ve read in awhile: Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Ever since I got an advance copy months ago, I’ve been impatiently waiting to tell you guys all about how awesome, swoony and basically perfect this book is. I tore through it in a couple of days and, let’s be real, I’m probably going to reread it as soon as I’m done writing about it. So let’s get to it!

Cath just started college, and it’s not really going so well. Her twin sister Wren never wants to hang out, even though they go to the same school. Her roommate Reagan is intimidatingly cool. And she’s too nervous to find or figure out the intricacies of the dining hall, so she’s subsisting on protein bars that she stashes under her bed.

Cath isn’t the kind of girl who wants to go out to parties–she’s the sort of girl who, when she’s the only one in her dorm building on a Thursday night, fantasizes that she’s actually trapped in a library overnight (so, in other words, she’s a girl after my own heart). But while she might not be a social butterfly in college, she’s sort of famous online–for writing fan fiction. Cath writes about Simon Snow, a very Harry Potter-esque boy wizard. Instead of going out, Cath prefers to escape into the world of Simon.

But real life keeps intruding on Cath’s fictional world. She actually starts to become friends with tough girl Reagan, as well as Regan’s friend Levi. Oh, Levi (insert several long, pained, romantic sighs here because Levi is only a fictional character and not a real person). Here’s why I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing so much: just as she did with Eleanor and Park, she creates a three-dimensional, realistic love interest. Levi isn’t all muscles and brawny good looks like a dude on the cover of a romance novel. Instead, he’s described as having a “crazy vampire hairline” and a huge forehead. I always like a YA dude who doesn’t fall into either the “good guy best friend just waiting to be noticed” or “rebellious danger man” molds.

And the romantic tension? WHEW. If you’re read Eleanor & Park (if not, go ahead…I’ll wait), you remember how the simple act of hand-holding was an extremely significant romantic gesture. Fangirl devotes the same attention to small physical actions, which I loved, because when you’re just getting to know someone, even the tiniest gestures can mean so much.

There’s also some very heart-wrenching stuff with Cath and her parents and Wren that we don’t have the space to get into right now, because as much as I might like to, I can’t just quote the entire book and call it a column. Suffice it to say, you need to pick up a copy of Fangirl when it comes out on September 10th.


-How fantastic is that cover? It was illustrated by the very talented Noelle Stevenson, and it’s basically the most adorable thing ever.

– You know how a lot of times in books and movies, college is totally not anything like it is in real life? Like in Saved By the Bell: The College Years, how they had those giant apartment-style dorm rooms, and you were just like, “Uh, what university are they going to?” Well, Fangirl is the total opposite of that. It’s so realistic that it brought back memories of my own college experience. The tiny dorm rooms, the dining halls, the occasional loneliness…oh, and of course the nicknames for people on campus. Except while Cath and Regan talk about Soccer Sandals and Venezuelan Lindsay Lohan, my friends and I talked about people like Full Grown Baby Guy (adult man that looked like a baby) and Crushed Velvet Blazer Guy (self-explanatory). Oh, college.

-I didn’t know much about fan fiction before reading Fangirl (well, once I wrote this blog post about Hey Arnold fan fiction, but I think that’s a different beast), so it was super fun to learn so much about what the community is like. If you’re already into fan fiction, you’ll probably really love this book!

-As a writer, I loved reading about Cath’s struggle with writing. Although Cath is a fanfic superstar, she has trouble creating her own characters and worlds—which is a problem, because college writing classes tend not to let you turn in fan fiction. Throughout the book, Cath’s relationship with her writing develops just as much as her romantic relationship. This quote was particularly great: “That was the beauty in stacking up words—they got cheaper the more you had of them.”

-If you love Fangirl (and I honestly don’t see how you couldn’t unless you’re some sort of robot), make sure to read Rainbow Rowell’s other books, Eleanor & Park and Attachments. They’re both totally different than Fangirl, but both of them involve tons of perfect-yet-realistic romance, hilarious dialogue and truly wonderful writing.

What about you guys? Are you Rainbow Rowell super fans, too? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to buy Fangirl when it comes out this Tuesday, September 10th! As always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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