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Staff Picks: “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

Sometimes, I love a book so much, I don’t want to let the story go. Luckily for me and millions of other fans, just because my favorite series ended, doesn’t mean I have to stop reading about my favorite characters or abandon my favorite story worlds. Luckily for me and millions of other readers who feel the same, there’s fanfiction! Continuations and remixes of so many books are being shared online so that fans can continue to see their favorite characters continue going on adventures.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell explores the world of fandom through the eyes of Cath, an aspiring writer who goes off to college and sort of flounders through her first semester. She feels abandoned by her twin sister who doesn’t want to be her roommate or spend all their time together like they have done before. She’s a little wary of her rommmate and has no clue that Levi is crushing on her. And she feels safer in the online world of the Simon Snow fandom writing fanfic than making friends in her classes or writing stories that feature her own original characters.

Rainbow Rowell really gets fanfiction. Excerpts from the original “real” Simon Snow series as well as Cath’s fanfic are sandwiched between chapters, so readers get to actually see the world of Simon Snow. I was sad the fictional series was not real and that I couldn’t pick up that series and read it myself. Rainbow Rowell creates a believable fictional universe for Cath to obsess over. Sure, it’s inspiration is obvious, but it’s reminiscent enough of Harry Potter to have a hint of tongue and cheek humor about it yet unique enough that it stands on its own.

But this book will reach readers who aren’t as interested in the world of fandom. This story captured the actual college experience, which brings incredible freedom and potential for self-discovery and an opportunity to reinvent yourself, but also fear and insecurity and the loss of everything that you thought made you you. Teenagers looking to get an introduction into what college will be like (or adults looking to reminisce) will enjoy the story.

In addition to learning to live without her sister, crushing on a new boy, and finding her own voice as a writer, Cath is also dealing with family issues. Rowell wove all of the parts of Cath’s life together into a seamless story, where each aspect of Cath’s life impacted the other. The different elements of the plot all fit together. I was submerged in this world for the day I read this novel, and once I finished, I wanted to start it back over again.

Rainbow Rowell captured my heart with Eleanor & ParkI loved her adult novel, The Attachments. But Fangirl solidified her spot among my favorite authors.

What all of Rainbow Rowell’s books have in common are completely ordinary characters that are all extraordinary in the eyes of someone who loves them. Her characters all feel achingly real, lovable and flawed and imperfect and familiar. The beauty of her writing is in the details, the wonderful turns of phrase, the quiet moments, moments that somehow feel as mind-blowing and significant as the most thrilling action-sequences.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of a Rainbow Rowell fangirl.

- Molly, YA

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