Fan Culture in the University Setting

Eleanor and Park Author Crafts Another Hit Novel

Priscilla Ng

Staff Writer

The title for Rainbow Rowell’s newest novel, Fangirl, gives the misleading impression of a stereotypical book that portrays another female protagonist obsessed with a boyband.

On the other hand, Fangirl bravely tackles multiple subjects that are often the sole centerpieces of other books: divorce, family, the difficulties of transitioning to college, and the namesake of the novel – the growing teenage obsession with pop culture.

The novel begins with protagonist Cather struggling to adapt to university life without her twin sister, Wren, who seems to have moved along just fine without her. Cather, though, would rather stay home alone than party, avoids human interaction, and is immersed in the fictional fan culture of Simon Snow, a book series that is modelled off the Harry Potter phenomenon.

However, Rowell may have tried to incorporate one too many themes. While the central “coming-of-age” tale and the fan culture aspect are successfully addressed, there are certain topics that are mentioned, but never concluded, leaving the reader with open ends that distract from the novel’s otherwise poignant ending. The book also inserts passages from the Simon Snow novels between chapters of Cather’s story; initially, the excerpts helped to add background, but by the end, the pieces seemed more like fillers with no purpose.

Ultimately, Rowell does a good job in describing Cather’s tendency to deal with the fictional world rather than her own reality, something that can be seen in today’s teenagers.

The whimsical illustrations featured on the cover of Fangirl are created by Anna Gorovoy. The first edition of the novel was published and distributed in September of 2013, but has only recently become popular. "A funny and tender coming-of-age story that's also the story of a writer finding her voice...touching and utterly real," Publisher’s Weekly said. PC: Priscilla Ng
The whimsical illustrations featured on the cover of Fangirl are created by Anna Gorovoy. The first edition of the novel was published and distributed in September of 2013, but has only recently become popular. “A funny and tender coming-of-age story that’s also the story of a writer finding her voice…touching and utterly real,” Publisher’s Weekly said. PC: Priscilla Ng

“I think fan culture mirrors certain aspects of real life, but also romanticizes many aspects of reality,” senior Lucy Huang said. “[Fan culture] can alter how you view people or situations around you, and also how you react to them.”

Rowell proves that Cather’s love for fan fiction, while rather quirky, allows her to form true and lasting friendships in university.

“I think fan culture lets teenagers connect with people they might otherwise have never met,” Huang said. “I think it provides a common ground and a way for people to bond together.”

In the end, Fangirl shows that an individual can accept her quirks and flaws and need not completely change to adapt to a new environment.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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