"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell follows the story of Cather Avery, a 18-year-old college freshman hailing from Omaha, Nebraska who is obsessed with a franchise called Simon Snow. (Think Harry Potter.*) Cather is a twin who was raised by a mentally unstable father and a mother who left that suffers from her own anxiety problems. She finds solace, comfort and acceptance in the world of Simon Snow, but has sort of forgotten to live in her own.
When I was younger, I loved writing fanfiction. I never "fangirled" over books(that would happen when I was older and started reading Game of Thrones...) but I fangirled like craxy over video games. My fanfictions were various stories using the characters from franchises like Kingdom Hearts, FFX, FFVII, ... most of the Final Fantasies... and even a few anime, like Sailor Moon. But then I got older and my fangirl tendencies seemed to have faded away. (For the most part. Damn you, George R. R. Martin.) (Just kidding, I love you.)
That being said, I really couldn't identify with Cather. She is reclusive, scared and avoidant of nearly all human contact, which is about as opposite of me as it gets. To be honest, when the book first began, I was afraid I was going to end up disliking it because I couldn't get over how clingy she was. However, Rainbow Rowell has a gift. Not only did I get over Cath's imperfections, I ended up really liking her, even before she began to open her eyes to the real world.
Cath somehow got me rooting for her. I wanted her to go out and have fun with her room mate. I wanted her to be a regular 18-year-old girl and not have to worry about her possibly-alcoholic twin, disappearing-and-now-reappearing mother and her wonderful-but-sadly-disturbed father. She had a lot on her plate.
Watching Cath grow was fulfilling. When she finally began going out with her room mate, Reagan (who was a hilarious and very real character), and starting her own romance with Levi (a sweet, adorable 21-year-old with the patience of a saint), I felt really satisfied as a reader. Rowell gently led into Cath's growth and I felt like I was growing with her. Of course she still did things I didn't understand (like how a kiss over Levi's head for three months... get over yourself, girl), but by then I understood her so thoroughly that it made sense.
Cath also grows as a writer. As her world is broadened from the world of Simon Snow to her own, she realizes the endless possibilities that she could write. About herself. About her world. That was a great metaphor for how she had finally accepted her reality.
Overall, I absolutely adored this book. The characters were so fleshed out and real that I felt like I was reading a book about my own friends. I'm very excited to check out Rainbow Rowell's other books.
* There is mention of Harry Potter in this book, which sort of confused me. She set up Simon Snow as the Harry Potter of that universe and then threw in HP randomly... I sort of wish that had been edited out. I don't understand the reasoning for that inclusion.