Poor Cath. Winter break has certainly not been the easiest for her. When I was a freshman in college, winter break pulled me out of the community that I had fallen in love with, the new standard of always being surrounded by people that I had quickly adjusted to, and the strange schedule of an 18-year-old who loved to stay up late and eat a weird 2 am meal of soup and candy and threw me back into my parents’ quiet house, where I was often alone and always told that I was staying up too late (my mom wakes up when I brush my teeth late at night. Her body is so upset by people staying up too late). For me, it was terrible and I spent a lot of time listening to my discman, creating angsty away messages, wishing I was back at Etown. But poor Cath! She would have wanted to go home for a month to spend time alone, to focus on Carry On, to spend time with her dad, to avoid Levi. And just as she’s about to enter the home stretch of a trying semester, Fucking Kelly calls and everything changes.
Cath spends much of this first half of the novel worrying about her dad and Wren. Her worrying, for good reason, is pushed into overdrive over break with her dad at the hospital then adjusting to life back home and Wren going out too much and staying out too late. Cath tries to arrange her life, even in the smallest ways, to watch over the two of them. She waits up for Wren when her dad doesn’t. She checks for signs of her dads stability, sadly wondering what she could have prevented when he’s in the hospital and then nervously adopting a strict vigilance over his schedule once he returns home. But neither wants to be the center of Cath’s worry. Wren cruelly pushes her away; her dad tries to make her understand that her worrying makes him feel worse.
When she’s not worrying about those who are trying, for reasons good and bad, to create distance from her, Cath is stressed about those who don’t want to create distance. After Levi (swoon) rushes out of work to drive her to the hospital, he finally confronts her with his confusion over her seemingly-abrupt change in feelings. Despite proclaiming, loudly and repeatedly, that she wants nothing to do with her, Cath’s mother sneaks a Christmas present to her via Wren, finding a way into her life. Everyone is disappointing Cath. When Reagan calls and promises to keep Levi away, to make Cath’s room a space where she can hide from these feelings, I felt so relieved.
What else? What else!
- When Emily and I were writing Reading Jessica Darling, we joked that we spent so much of our posts praising Bridget that the blog might as well have been called the Bridget Propaganda Project, and it looks like Reagan in the Bridget of Fangirl.
- Que Lastima! I never really felt the loss of Abel, but I am sad that they are missing their favorite Christmas desserts.
- Cath wondering around her house alone, taking inventory of all the signs she and Wren would have seen, would have acted on, is one of the saddest scenes in the book to me.
The scene that I found so affecting, where Cath walks around her empty house looking for clues about her dad’s mental state, reminds me of Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, a novel about the children of performance artists who spent much of their childhood being part of their art. When Annie and Buster return as adults to live with their parents in their childhood home, they have to confront what effect the importance that their parents placed on art first and children second had on their childhood.