I’m excited to be starting the discussion of Fangirl because this was my favorite read of 2013. I loved and was so deeply moved by Eleanor and Park, but so much of the novel was so hard to read and so sad to consider that I didn’t want to immediately reread the book once I had finished it. Instead, I listen to the Smiths and cried and thought about it. Once I finished Fangirl, I reread it. And then I reread it again. I have reread this book five times already. I must admit that since the first reading, I haven’t read anything that was in italics, anything from Simon Snow or its fanfic, so I’m excited to revisit these aspects of the book with fresh eyes.
I love Fangirl because not enough novels (or television shows or movies) examine the college experience – so often they discuss life before college or immediate after. But, more than just Cath’s freshman year of college, this novel is an examination of a writer finding her voice, and I am a total sucker for novels about writers. It’s one of the things that I love most about Little Women, How Should a Person Be?, Sloppy Firsts, my favorite show, Girls, and my favorite written thing ever, A Room of One’s Own (as you can see by this list, I’m particularly interested in women writers). On the first day of Cath’s writing class, her professor asks the class why they write fiction, and Cath’s answer is to disappear. For eighteen years, Cath was able to disappear into the Avery Twins, without having to define herself outside of Wren. She easily disappears into MagiCath, her fandom persona, where she is confident and sought-after and acclaimed.
But it’s hard to disappear at college, as Cath soon realizes. You don’t have your own space, and you are almost never alone. In the halls, the dorm bathroom, and in the classroom, Cath notices how much the other students are dying to make eye contact and connections with each other. They want to reaffirm their existence, have someone else notice them and pay them attention, but Cath wants the opposite. To achieve this, Cath tries to take up as little space as possible. She curls up into the corner of her bed. She tries to be as quiet and undetectable as possible when Reagan is in the room. She shrinks away from situations where she might make a scene, like the dining hall. After contemplating all that may go wrong when getting dinner for herself, Cath counts her protein bars and jars of peanut butter and decides that “if she paced herself, she might not have to face the dining hall until October” (15). I will never recover from how sad this makes me.
What else? What else!
- I have the exact opposite reaction that Cath has to new situations – I psych myself up for how amazing everything will be, without stopping to consider how scared I might be, so it always hits me like a brutal surprise. This has resulted in me crying and needing my aunt to come visit me my first Saturday in college and me collapsing on my bed in tears, refusing to walk around UBC’s campus with my parents, after they helped me move into my apartment in Vancouver. A happy medium between the two of us is probably ideal.
- I love the way Levi just jumps into a conversation about hamburgers with Cath as soon as he sees her.
- My freshman roommate and I didn’t dislike each other, but we didn’t really bond until about March and were never very close friends. I was so jealous of the Wrens and Courtneys of my freshman class.
I’ve started reading fic: Why Fanficiton is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison and it’s really interesting, especially the parts about megafandom, like Harry Potter and Twilight. I was vaguely aware that fandoms and fanfiction existed –- my (eventual) college roommate, a stunning blonde from Sweden who is the biggest nerd in the best way, introduced me to Mugglenet and sometimes we would watch fan videos on YouTube that centered around Draco Malfoy (yes, I did give her this novel and yes, she did love it) — but I’ve never been immersed in it. Both Fangirl and Rainbow Rowell’s tumblr have made me interested in learning more. If you feel the same way, then I would definitely recommend checking it out.