"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
February 10, 2015
Fangirl: Finding Your Voice
by Erin Cowles

Sometimes my Nebraskan roots show. Usually, I think I have fully assimilated into Virginia culture. Then I find myself eating obscene quantities of corn on the cob while reading Willa Cather, and I realize there are some parts of Omaha that will always be a part of me.

My obsession with Rainbow Rowell (yes, that is her real name) is one of those Omahan traits that have stayed with me. I grew up reading her columns in the Omaha World Herald, and after I left home, my mom would periodically mail me some of her clips. Yes, I am old enough to have my mom mail me physical newspaper clips in college. Moving on.

I love Rowell's writing, so I'm ecstatic that she's expanded into fiction. In Fangirl, Rowell takes on both college coming of age and fanfiction (fiction featuring characters from another writer's books or movies).

Cath is a bit of a celebrity. Not in the physical world — she's painfully shy and awkward. But she's developed a huge online following for her fanfiction of Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque fiction series she escaped into when her parents divorced.

The other constant in her life is her twin sister, Wren, but now that they are off to college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Wren wants to create a life separate from Cath, rooming separately and partying too hard.

Fangirl chronicles Cath's often bumpy and awkward journey to love life in the real world and develop her own voice as a writer.

Joining her for this journey are her surly but loyal roommate Reagan, Reagan's friendly and charming boyfriend (or one of them, anyway — Cath isn't really sure how the relationship works), her dedicated and exacting writing professor, and her talented writing partner. As always, her characters are flawed but lovable, and their dialogue is witty and engaging.

Cath learns that real life is messy and complicated, but also beautiful and expanding. She also learns to embrace her identity as a Simon Snow fan, while still developing her own voice as a writer.

What I love most about this book is that it also chronicles her journey back to the important relationships in her life. Many “finding yourself” books involve cutting your ties and focusing on yourself. Yes, Cath starts her journey by having all her ties cut, but I loved that finding herself also meant finding her way back to the people she loves, and seeing them even more clearly.

I also loved that the pacing felt like real life. It isn't a build to the grand moment where you get the boy and vanquish the enemy and ride off into the sunset. It is full of little victories and little struggles that ebb and flow, and some dramas that aren't really resolved. It is not just finding love, but keeping love, even when it is hard. And despite it channeling real life, Fangirl stayed interesting because Rowell's writing is just that strong.

Rowell loves to swear, and her college students engage in stereotypical college debauchery, like drinking and having sex (not graphic, but present).

I've enthusiastically read all four books Rowell's published, and will continue reading everything she writes. Her writing is witty, empathetic, and swoon-worthy. This is coming from someone that hates chick flicks and frankly feels a little embarrassed about swooning.

I may be a little biased, but I have a feeling that you don't have to be from Omaha to enjoy this book.

Read this book if...

  • You can relate to Cath's living off protein bars for several months because her social anxiety and the prospect of facing a cafeteria alone are a bad combination.

  • You're done with gorgeous, flashy bad boys — Rowell makes a nice farm boy with a receding hairline quite attractive.

  • You've ever had that awkward social moment where you get a little too enthusiastic about something that happened in a book (or that glorious social moment where you find someone that is every bit as enthusiastic about it as you).

Target audience: Girls, ages 14 and up.


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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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