I’m on holidaaaaayyyyy!!!
Or I was, at the time of writing. I’m in a gorgeous little hotel in the Austrian Tyrol, with very patchy access to the internet (hence the blogging hiatus – thanks for your patience!), surrounded by mountains and cute little wooden houses with overflowing window boxes… and I have a bunch of books, with nothing but time to read them.
My first holiday read isn’t in the above picture, because I bought it (along with another) in the bookshop at the terminal for Le Shuttle. Despite the fact that all of the above were already in my suitcase. It’s… I have a problem, guys. In my defence, my travelling partner left me alone in the bookshop – what was I to do?!
I follow Rainbow Rowell on Twitter, along with a whole heap of wonderful authors, reviewers, and readers of YA; so I had heard a lot about Fangirl before I saw it in the shop. Lots of people rave about it, and I can see why – I really loved this book! Fangirl tells Cath’s story. One half of a pair of identical twins, the narrative follows Cath as she starts college, deals with her sister finding her own independence, and tries to balance the challenges of leaving home, being in new and awkward situations, school work, and keeping up with her immensely popular fanfic. Cath is a really relatable protagonist; she suffers with anxiety, is obsessed with a fictional world, and finds it easier to deal with life in this world – and on the internet – than her ‘real’ life. It’s great to read such familiar and well-put descriptions of the wealth of worries something as simple as getting dinner by yourself in a new canteen can throw up – most of us have been there! You know those moments, when you meet someone new, and they maybe confess in hushed tones that they still sleep with their childhood teddy; or they nearly didn’t come to this party because their friend bailed and they didn’t know if they would know anyone else; or they actually have to pick all of the mushrooms out of their food before they can eat it… and you’re like *gasp!* ME TOO!!… and then that’s it, you just know you’re going to be *~*bffs*~*?
This book was full of those moments.
Seriously, representation is so important; not just for young adults, but for slightly less young adults, too! I can’t overemphasise the positive impact it can have on a person to realise that yes, someone else worries about that too, someone else understands how you think, someone else likes that nerdy thing, you’re not the only one. There are also some important themes around mental health and mental illness in the book – dealt with sensitively and not as the focus – but for me the real impact was simply normalising the stress of figuring out who you are.
I also loved that Cath writes fanfiction. I’m not massively into the fanfiction scene myself; not for any big reason, it’s just that it’s not a world I’ve properly encountered (although I have tripped over some awesome writing as well as some truly very terrible writing out there!). My sister loves it, however, and it was really cool to get kind of a new insight into one of the things that make her tick. There’s the big question of the legitimacy of fanfiction raised; Cath is challenged on her writing, with another character calling it plagiarism, and Cath feeling certain that it’s not – this is such a cool question, and taps into the kind of thinking I love. What is art? What is inspiration, and what is plagiarism? When characters – like Harry Potter, for example – become so universal, are they purely owned by the author anymore? Or, despite what the law might say, do they belong – at least in part – to the readers, the fans? Do they belong to anyone? This is the kind of debate and critical thinking I genuinely find really fun – and I think it’s important, too, to be able to ask those kind of questions about the world, so I loved that this is a question Cath has to deal with. Fittingly, the paperback copy I bought was a special fan art edition – inside the cover has been illustrated with fan art from the book, which is really cool. Not only is the art itself awesome, but it reflects the research and experience of the author (in the afterword, Rowell notes just how much fanfiction she read before writing Fangirl), and is a cute visual tie-in to the questions raised above.
I loved Fangirl. Rainbow Rowell, you’ve made a fan of me!