Anna, Emily, and I were a bit relieved when it was time for the Fangirl phase of the blog. We struggled a bit with Eleanor & Park, mainly because we love it so much. Certain aspects of E&P (domestic abuse, bullying, issues of race and class) are so heavy and important and we didn’t know if our little blog was the right place for those discussions. And, to be perfectly honest, there were times when I wasn’t sure if my little brain was equipped to do them justice. So we were happy to move away from that pressure, self-imposed though it was (because, really is anyone reading this?). Fangirl, with its adorable pastel cover, its quirky, nerdy heroine, and its clever winks to the Harry Potter fandom, would give us a break. However, I had forgotten what an incredibly touching and sensitive book this is.
I love that Rowell treats Cath’s social anxiety as a valid part of who she is. Her shy, reserved nature is what makes her Cath; it’s not something that needs to be fixed so she can be more like Wren. Yes, she grows a great deal during her freshman year, but she’ll never be a social butterfly and that’s OK. This sums up why I love Fangirl so much: “In new situations all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you and the ones you can’t google” (15). Did I feel that way as a college freshman in a new city? You bet. That was expected. But do I still feel like that at least once a day EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE? Yup. We all have those moments when we feel like we’re the only one who didn’t get the memo and I’ve never seen that feeling expressed so perfectly before.
Cath’s social anxiety is also never dismissed as a side effect of being part of the internet generation. Fangirl treats fandom culture and online socializing with respect and sensitivity. I’m sure that anyone reading this post knows how it feels to love a fictional world and its inhabitants to the point that you never want to let them go. And maybe we all spend a little too much time hunched over a laptop, but so does Rainbow Rowell! In the acknowledgements, Rowell mentions her own relationship to fandom and expresses her admiration for fanfiction writers. If that isn’t enough proof that she really gets it, just check out her active Tumblr and Twitter. She’s always reblogging fan art (how amazing are these?) and will even make earnest contributions to “fancasting” discussions about the inevitable movie adaptations of her novels. No wonder she’s not judging us in Fangirl— she’s totally one of us.