by Rainbow Rowell
Published September 2013
From Goodreads: From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park. A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
It’s been a while since I read this book. It was one of my picks for my bookclub when we got together to read books and drink wine, instead of just drinking wine like we do now. I didn’t realize when I chose it that Rowell, a Nebraska native, had set the story in my alma mater, the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. The main character, Cath, walked the same halls that I did, studied in the same library, and ate in the same dining hall. We even lived in the same dormitory complex, Cather-Pound-Neihardt. The setting’s specificity helped me fall right into the story because I didn’t have to imagine the stacks of Love Library, nor did I have to work to picture the Nebraska blizzard that Cath and a friend end up driving through one winter’s night. I’ve experienced these things for myself. The details made the story come alive for me.
It didn’t hurt that Cath and I both wrote and read fanfiction in college.
Though it’s been a few years since I read Fangirl, I’m suddenly reminded of it because the dormitory I lived in (and that the imaginary Cath also lived in), is being demolished today.
The buildings’ destruction isn’t a matter of perfectly good buildings being torn down in the name of progress, as some seem to think. They had a lot of problems that went beyond the annoying water temperature issues in the showers. When I was living there, the Resident Assistant (the student in charge of keeping order on the floor) on the top floor was awakened by a blood-curdling scream at 5:30AM. The reason? One of the girls had gotten up early to get ready for her student teaching position and had a bat fly out of the closet at her. Other, bigger issues included a lack of a proper tornado shelter (always a necessity when you live in Tornado Alley), and the horrendous amount of time it took a building full of students to evacuate through the rather narrow staircases (as we discovered one December night, when some idiot pulled the fire alarm).
There was also a problem with daredevil squirrels that would scale the sides of the buildings and break in through windows that had been left open.
In spite of those problems, I have a lot of amazing memories from the two years I lived in Pound Hall. It’s where one of my now-best friends and I really became friends instead of just former roomates who ended up living on the same floor; it’s where she and her then-boyfriend-now-husband truly fell in love. It’s where, on a rare snow day, a bunch of us networked a dozen computers across three floors together and had an all day Halo tournament. It’s where another friend rigged up a glitter-spray-gun and sent a pound of gold glitter into my best friend’s room, and after she vacuumed it all up the vintage vacuum cleaner deposited glitter across the two floors it was being used on. It’s where I came home from work one night to find a pack of ghost hunters waiting for me, because my room was supposedly haunted.
So many things happened there, both good and bad. And looking back, it feels like it was the place where I became an adult instead of just being an older kid. Sure, my parents would still help me out with this or that, but they were two-hundred miles away. I had to learn to stand on my own two feet in my little dorm room.
And at approximately 9:03AM, Cather-Pound will come rumbling down. There’s more than a little nostalgia going on in my little household today. I’m sure they’ll replace them with dormitories that won’t suffer from bat or squirrel incursions and can be fully evacuated in a matter of minutes. They’ll be lovely, I’m sure, and add more flair to the University’s skyline. But the buildings I called home for two years will be gone.
I’m going to have to get a copy of Fangirl and bury myself in a bit of nostalgic reading.