Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: A Twin's Perspective
"I'd rather be broken than wasted." — Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl is a beautifully delicate coming-of-age story that I really resonate with—not because I am a fangirl like Cath, but because I am a twin and Rowell really nails the #twinning relationship. I may not be as delightfully nerdy as Cath, but I do identify with her in a lot of ways, and I am not the only reader to feel this way. Rowell taps into this new world and really brings it to light, making readers feel as though they are on the inside of this secret universe. She has an incredible ability to build complex characters and still make the pages turn. I’m serious, y’all. These characters came to life for me. I feel like I know them, and I was so sad to say good-bye.
In this YA novel, everyone is a Simon Snow fan, but Cath takes “fandom” to a whole new level. She is a college freshman who would rather stay shut up in her dorm room than mingle with her twin sister, Wren, at fraternity parties. Wren is the social “pretty one,” which doesn’t exactly feed Cath’s self-esteem. Cath eats, breathes, sleeps and writes Simon Snow, and has made the Snow series her identity ever since it began when she was a kid. Readers learn right away that Wren used to also consume the book series and help Cath with her fanfiction—an almost ritualistic piece of their hearts that helped them deal with their mother leaving when they were kids—but she’s growing up and desperate for an identity outside of “the twins.”
As the girls prepare for college, Wren tells Cath that she doesn’t want to be roommates. While Wren claws for a new identity, Cath has to learn how to deal with changes she never wanted and come out of her shell as someone other than “the quiet, anti-social, less pretty twin.” She also has to cope with new feelings surrounding a mentally unstable father, sassy roommate and a new, swoon-worthy boy. In the process of stubborn change, Cath learns who she is as an individual, friend, and writer. I won’t give too much away, but she opens herself up to love, and I rooted for her the whole way.
I was so invested in the relationships in this story, especially Cath and Wren. It’s clear that Rowell has the power of stirring up nostalgia in her readers, which—I’m sure—is why Fangirl is loved by many. I was flooded with my own coming-of-age story, insecurities, and fears I had to face as a twin and college student. When you grow up with a twin by your side, your own personal narrative always includes this . . . other person. You don’t know life any other way. When you step out of your child’s skin and that relationship is suddenly rocky, it’s scary and confusing. I rooted for Cath, but my heart also went out to Wren when I learned about her own inner struggles halfway through the book.
I was hooked right away on the complexities of Wren and Cath’s friendship—they love each other and know each other more than any other human being, and yet there is this complicated “tension” that I truly think all twins are familiar with because of competition and comparison. As a twin, leading your own story isn’t easy. Every twin—and teen for that matter—has to deal with the hard growing pains.
Twins also experience authentic, special love, and Rowell captures this conflict beautifully. Obviously, I could talk about this one relationship in the book for pages and pages. Fangirl is not centered on this twin relationship, but it is definitely what grabbed me most. Wanting to let go of or cling to the other in the midst of change, feeling self-conscious or inferior to “the pretty one,” especially when boyfriends are thrown into the mix . . . It’s all complicated. And oh, Cath, I totally get it—you have all of this frustration and you feel immature for caring so much.
I adore this book and the characters Rainbow Rowell created. I won’t gush too much over dreamy Levi, but just know this gal squealed a lot. The romance is perfect and so is the dialogue; everything flows without being cutesy or overdone. I think it’s safe to say I’ve found my new favorite young-adult author! I can’t wait to read Eleanor & Park.