Fangirl is the story of eighteen-year-old Cather Avery, a freshman in college who is a popular fanfiction author on the Internet. She bases her fanfiction off of the fictional Simon Snow series (think Harry Potter) and is completely obsessed with Simon’s fantasy world. When Cath gets to college with her twin sister Wren, she has a hard time leaving her fantasy world for the real world. Cath is very socially awkward and has a hard time making friends, and feels her sister drifting apart as Wren starts going out to parties and meets new people. Cath’s junior roommate Reagan and her on-and-off boyfriend Levi slowly start to help her come out of her shell as they help her navigate college. Back home, her father struggles with living by himself because he is mentally unstable, and without Cath and Wren to take care of him, he eventually is admitted into a hospital. Even worse, her fiction writing professor claims that Cath is plagiarizing her beloved Simon Snow series when she writes her fanfiction, which crushes Cath’s confidence as a writer. With the help of her friends, family, and fanfiction she begins to find her true self as both a writer and a person.
Cath’s socially awkward nature and her fanfiction-obsessed lifestyle can be relatable to many teens. Many of her thoughts and actions are common to socially awkward teens, such as not wanting to meet new people or being afraid to go to new places alone. Rowell develops Cath as a character throughout the novel as Cath starts facing problems found in the real world while simultaneously slowly leaving her fantasy world. In between chapters, Rowell adds a unique element by adding excerpts from Cath’s fanfiction, Carry On, Simon, or an excerpt from one of the fictional Simon Snow books as chapter dividers to help the reader learn more about the fantasy world of Simon Snow. A main theme of the novel is the difficulty of transitioning from being a teenager to an adult, which Rowell integrates smoothly with realistic family and life problems, such as Cath’s absent mother’s suddenly reappearing in her life. By the end of the novel, Cath finds a balance between her fantasy world and the real world instead of giving up on fanfiction forever, which makes Cath seem like a more realistic character. Fans of Rowell’s other popular novel, Eleanor & Park, will certainly enjoy Fangirl; Cath and Eleanor have very similar shy, bookish personalities. Those not already familiar with Rowell’s work should check out Fangirl if they are looking for an engaging read.