Is Fangirl a Fake Geek Girl’s Idea of Being a Fangirl?

Image result for fangirl book cover
“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”

According to Rainbow Rowell’s book, Fangirls are a bunch of immature, pathetic, fat, losers, wearing coke-bottle-glasses, with unresolved mommy issues, who write slashfic all day. Well, as a fangirl I object. My fanfic is not slashfic! And I’m going to hold my breath till you apologies Rainbow!

Did I offend anyone? Sorry, nerds don’t have to be tactful.

I’ve seen reviews from other fangirls that complain about how immature and emotionally unstable the protagonist, Cath, is in this novel, but that’s not the real problem for me. Rowell’s Cath is a very believable representation of unresolved childhood trauma and depression. The problem I have is that ALL Cath does as a “fangirl” is hang posters on her dorm room wall and write fan fiction.

Follow me little ducklings into the big pond of internet fandom: Watch out for snakes!

Yes, fanfic and slashfic is a part of fandom, but we never see Cath doing other fan things. She doesn’t search for interviews with the author, look for leaked chapters from the next book, or fan theorize upcoming plot elements. We don’t see her quoting her favorite parts, making in-jokes. We don’t even see her blasting the inaccuracies of the movie adaptations for cutting out beloved but ultimately unfilmable details like a bright blue jackets and yellow boots! We don’t see Cath do any of the little things hardcore fans do!

Now, there is nothing wrong with that. Just because you like one thing doesn’t mean you have to be a hardcore fan. Fanfic forums are filled with writers who like the setup of a story but aren’t necessarily fans of the canon. They take the story basics and they write their own universe. That’s a part of fanfic. The problem is that the book is titled Fangirl! We are told over and over again how much Cath is a fangirl, but she’s not!

To the novel’s credit, Cath’s family is a believable level of messed up. And oh boy, are they messed up!

Tuck in those tails little ducks, this is going to get emotional:

This is a family that was so damaged they have never really healed. Cath’s mom actually TOLD her twin daughters that she got pregnant by accident and couldn’t handle being a mom. Then she left them.

Well, at least she didn’t lose the will to live when her twins were born.

I mean telling your kid that they were a “happy accident” is one thing, but WOW! That is tragically believable emotional garbage that real, horrible parents actually do to their kids. I work in a public school, I’ve seen kids with emotional garbage like this. . . Nope! I can’t! Too much! I’m Out! Pull the string!

Cath’s dad is in advertising and desperately needs to be on anti-psychotic medication. He gets so wrapped up in finding the perfect pitch for the Cordrazine account, that he forgets little things like eating and sleeping.

One of the biggest problems I have with the plot is the idea that freshmen Cath gets into a junior level English class. I know it needs to happen for the story, but why not have her get permission to audit the class? Or that she did dual enrollment in high school and that covered her intro classes? But no, she just tested out of English Comp. Bite my shinny white ass!

I was an English major and just before my junior year, I transferred colleges, you know what happened? They made me take English Comp again! There was NO wiggle room, everyone HAD to take English Comp (some of us twice.)

By the way: How does an English major whose so smartie-smart that she gets into a junior level English class, not know that the name “Starbuck” is originally from Moby Dick?! Yeah, maybe you should have made Cath take English Comp.

This is what I do, I drink coffee and I know things.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have a problem with the novel by itself. My problem is that the novel is called Fangirl! and I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end fake geeks!

The stupidest moment is when she turns in a piece of fanfic for a creative writing assignment. Really Cath?! Did your high school teachers let you get away with that? Well, actually they probably did since high school teachers are just glad when the kids show up for class and do some work.

We never do see this short story fanfic that Cath writes but she defends it as an ‘origanal take’ when she gets called out for plagiarizing. If it is as original as she claims, she could easily change the names and it would be fine. Cath’s big moment in the novel is when she writes a piece of original fiction based on her life. . . yeah, That’s her character growth. Writing a diary entry.

I don’t write fanfic personally, but I have some friends who do. All of them have original works outside of fanfic, and while there are elements of autobiography in any good writers work, not every work is an autobiography.

Tolkien never went on a journey to destroy a magic ring. He did serve in WWI, and enjoyed nature. Elements from the real world, but the story are pure fiction.  “Writers write what they know” is true, according to a certain point of view.

So what about Fangirl? Well, I’m left in much the same place as I was with Eleanor & Park. It’s a good book. Sadly, it’s trying, and failing, to be a good book for nerds. I’m sure a few fake geeks will like it, but the real fanboys and fangirls will probably enjoy my nerdy injokes in this rant better than the book.



  1. I didn’t hate this book or Cath (but I haven’t read it in four years). You’re right in saying that aside from writing her fic, she didn’t really have other fangirl habits, but that didn’t anger me that much. I guess the book wasn’t as much about Cath as a fangirl as it was Cath as a fanfiction writer. It’s a hobby that is seen as weird or creepy to the uninitiated, and this book was showing it in a more normal light, so it was somewhat relatable to me.
    I did find it odd, though, in the book when she started talking to that one girl who said she loved Simon Snow and Carry On (not knowing Cath was the fic writer) and instead of trying to be friends with this girl who clearly has similar interests, Cath just kind of walked away.


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