A young adult book with fan fiction and a large dose of teenage angst

Since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, stories known as fan fiction have sprouted and grown across multiple forums and remain popular even today to be read and written. While these types of stories aren’t exactly “original” works, it is a fun way to make characters from pop culture shows, movies, books, games, and more do things and follow story lines they normally wouldn’t. Many of these stories are written by young adults who are either curious about writing or just wish to write a fun story about something they love. Fangirl by author Rainbow Rowell focuses on a girl beginning her first year of college, but still wrapped up in a fictional world she loves and writes fan fiction about.

The Simon Snow book series by author Gemma T. Leslie is a worldwide phenomenon. Seven books have been published and the eighth and final installment is set to be released in the spring of 2012, the same year twin sisters Cath and Wren Avery attend the University of Nebraska as freshmen. Both sisters fell in love with Simon Snow and while Wren drifted away from the fandom with age, Cath could not leave the magical world it provided and created her own eighth book through fan fiction. Cath’s anxiety increased once she reached campus and all she can hold onto is the magical world of Simon Snow. Can she let go of her childhood love to move onto the next chapter of her life?

Fangirl is not a bad read, but it is also not a good read. It proves to be a rather interesting read where parts will grip the reader while other parts may lose the reader’s interest. One of the perks of the book is the fact that it is about two sisters transitioning from high school to college life. Not many books focus on this transition and Rowell captures the difficulty of it exceptionally well. If someone were to ask a college graduate what college was like, they will more than likely receive an answer bordering on Charles Dickens’ famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” College is a challenging part of life and can be the best and worst years of one’s life. Cath, the main sister readers follow, suffers from bad bouts of anxiety and Rowell captures this anxiety well for a teenage girl whose world is turned upside down and her only comfort is to escape into a fictional world she has loved for years.

While it does make for a good coming-of-age story, Fangirl does have its cons. Younger readers may be able to appreciate the teenage angst Cath and Wren go through as they begin the next chapter of their lives; however, for older readers, it just reads as angst, angst, and more angst. While Cath and Wren do develop nicely as their freshman year progresses, Rowell takes an exceptionally long time in developing both of them. Granted, it does take a while for someone to adapt to change and change into someone different, but it takes a rather long time for Cath and Wren to develop. A small quirk from an editor’s viewpoint is that Rowell needs to be careful with her tense usage. She writes in past tense, but has a tendency to occasionally swap to present tense in sporadic sentences.

Perhaps what would have really made an excellent story is if Rowell had become her fictional author Gemma T. Leslie and had written her Simon Snow series in its entirety. With the bits readers receive of the fictional book series, the series seems like a mix of Harry Potter and Twilight. This may not appeal to older readers as much, but it most certainly captivates the younger audience of readers. The parts where readers learned about the fictional Simon Snow series were very interesting to read; however, Rowell did not expand enough on this universe. Though the author did publish Cath’s fan fiction Carry On into an actual book, it would have been nice to read this actual series. Who knows? The Simon Snow series could be a big hit for younger readers for there were times when the excerpts from the series along with Cath’s fan fiction were more intriguing to read than the actual plot of Fangirl.

Fan fiction is a good starting point to give confidence to young, future, aspiring writers and it is rare to find a novel that incorporates this into the main plot. Rowell was able to do so in her novel Fangirl and has created an intriguing coming-of-age story for teenagers transitioning from being in high school to being a college student. While the fictional franchise within the fictional story is very intriguing, Rowell does not expand upon it as much as she should. And while the main plot does an excellent job of developing young and anxious teenage girls who are transitioning into a new chapter of their lives, Rowell takes a rather long time in doing so. For a young adult book that may reach out to many younger readers, especially those who write fan fiction and for those who are beginning college, Fangirl is a good story that has an equal amount of pros and cons that just needed a bit more to make it a great story.


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