On a car trip to a workshop in April, I got into a conversation with another bookseller about how great Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor & Park is. I must have mentioned several times how much I enjoyed writing the review for that book. At that same workshop another bookseller was talking about reading Rowell’s new book, Fangirl (St. Martin’s, $18.99, out today). What?!?! A new book by Rowell? Why did I not know about this? Where’s my copy? Well I went to request a digital reading copy (booksellers can do that and it’s awesome). It wasn’t available. I logged in on our store owner’s account and it wasn’t available to her either. I emailed our rep. She put in a request. It didn’t go through. I emailed again. We spoke on the phone. I check both my and the store owner’s accounts daily. Nothing. Then the ARC arrived in the mail. I almost had to throw down with a co-worker for right to first read. Lucky for me, my name was on the package. I don’t know that I’ve ever worked so hard to get an ARC before. And it was totally worth it. In a lot of ways, Eleanor & Park is better. There is something about that book that just works. The almost glacial evolution of their relationship is bizarrely satisfying. Fangirl also contains a slow moving relationship, but this book is more about Cath and saying that Eleanor & Park is better in no way reflects on how interesting Fangirl really is.
Cath is a first year at university. She’s unhappy with the direction her life is taking, especially since a lot of those directions are outside of her control. She doesn’t like not living with her twin sister. She doesn’t like that her dad is living alone. She doesn’t like that she feels forced to expand her horizons and meet new people. What Cath really wants to do is write fan fiction shipping Simon Snow and Baz from her (and everyone else’s) favorite Simon Snow series. And she’s good at it. She has thousands of followers. Her fiction has spawned crafts on Etsy. She’s been noted as one of THE fan fiction writers to read. Simon Snow is an homage to Harry Potter with a little Twilight thrown in, and Rowell really excels at penetrating important and engaging concepts within fandom: plagiarism, ownership, the god-like act of writing, sub-culture, finding your own writing voice, and even the juxtaposition between living online and living real life. Are they your friends, if you’ve never met them? Fangirl is a fantastically fun book and the layers of fiction writing that exist in this novel are impressive. Intertextual scholars are going to have a field day with this one. As for me, I’ll be watching for Rowell’s next book.