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Literature / Fangirl

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Fangirl is a 2013 Young Adult novel by Rainbow Rowell.

Cath writes Simon Snow fanfiction; Simon Snow is a fictional expy of Harry Potter, and there are eight books in the series about him. Specifically, Cath writes Slash Fic about Simon and his nemesis roommate Baz, a vampire with a Missing Mom. For a long time she and her twin Wren grew up with Simon Snow, dreaming of attending Watford School of Magicks. But now things are changing: the girls are off to college, too old to attend Watford. Book Eight will be released soon, so Cath has to finish her newest fanfic before canon is out.

Wren also drops a curveball: she doesn't want to room with Cath. She wants to leave Simon Snow behind, and grow up without her sister. That's only the first of many obstacles for Cath, as she tries to impress a Fiction professor with fanfiction and not kiss her roommate's boyfriend.


Rowell has also written a companion novel that defictionalizes Simon Snow fanfiction, Carry On. Its own popularity made it expand into a trilogy.

In 2020, Rowell partnered with Viz Media to adapt Fangirl into a manga miniseries. Part 1 was released in the fall of 2020.

Tropes found in this work include:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Inverted with Cath, whose social anxiety deepens at the beginning of the semester, and played straight with Wren, who mocks Simon Snow to Cath while drunk, mocks Cath for worrying about Wren's alcoholism, and blames her sister for not wanting to talk to their mother. A more justified case than most, in that Wren seizes the opportunity to explore her life without Cath being attached to her hip and college goes to her head. Wren only cools off when she nearly dies from alcohol poisoning, their dad threatens to pull her out of college if she doesn't go cold turkey, and she and Cath realize how far apart they've drifted.
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  • Actually, I Am Him: Averted. Cath meets a fan of her fanfic Carry On, Simon, who gushes about how well the author writes. Cath decides not to break the news to her but quietly relishes the praise.
  • Adult Fear: Given this is a novel about young adults, to be expected from both parents and grown children.
    • First year heading to college, not rooming with your best friend for the first time in ages. How is that not anxiety-ridden?
    • Your mother getting pregnant in college, warning you about boys and then running off will create some Parental Abandonment issues. Not to mention a fear of meeting college boys.
      • From Laura’s perspective, there’s growing up in a family full of women getting pregnant too young, trying to buck the trend by going to college....only to get pregnant anyway shortly after graduation. It’s implied to be one of the reasons why she left Cath and Wren.
    • Cath's dad gets this several times:
      • His wife divorces him because she can't handle the stress of being a mother. He becomes emotionally fragile as a result and has manic episodes.
      • Cath offers to move home after he suffers a nervous breakdown at the office to take care of him. He doesn't want to be responsible for her not getting an education.
      • Wren is hospitalized for alcohol poisoning; he threatens to pull her out of school if she doesn't attend Al-Anon meetings. Her response "everyone drinks" doesn't help her case.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Cath starts out the novel suffering from increased social anxiety, and distrust of people. She manages to go to classes and keep up her 4.0 GPA, but considers dropping out in the middle of the semester for different reasons. Reagan and Levi help her with it.
    • Levi himself is heavily implied to suffer from a learning disorder such as Dyslexia, as he is repeatedly shown to have trouble reading.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Wren sparks this on two separate occasions from Cath and their dad.
  • Ascended Fangirl: Cath is a minor one; she is the most popular fanfiction writer for Simon Snow.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A few.
    • Cath tries to reach out to Wren multiple times, only for Wren to dismiss or even mock her. But when she makes room in her hospital bed, crying and smelling of puke, Cath doesn't even hesitate to hug her sister.
    • Averted with Laura. She tries to reach out to the girls, but she doesn't try hard, ignores the girls feelings and in the end abandons them again when it would actually have mattered for her to be present.
    • Cath and Levi have their up and downs, but whenever Cath needs help, he is the first she asks and he always delivers. Even when they hadn't talked for six weeks.
    • While Art is a loving father through and through, when he finally puts his foot down due to his Anger Born of Worry, Cath remarks that this is the first time he really showed how much he cared for his daughters well-being.
    • Reagan is dismissive, rude and finds Cath weird and creepy. She also drags her to the dining hall the second she hears Cath doesn't know where it is, brings her to Levi's party when she shows interest and brings her home immediately without complaining after the kiss incident, supports her with relationship advice and even joins her on the release sale of the final Simon Snow book.
  • Bait the Dog: Cath thinks that she and Nick can become good writing partners; then Nick uses lines she wrote for a story they collaborated on, calling her his "editor" and takes the credit. He only tries to give her credit when Professor Piper insists on it.
  • Betty and Veronica: Cath is the Betty for Wrens Veronica towards everyone that knows both of them. Most people prefer the exciting and outgoing Veronica.
  • Betty and Veronica Switch:
    • Played with regarding Levi and Nick. At first it seems that Nick is Betty (friendly, likes writing, a bit introverted like Cath) while Levy is Veronica (extroverted, loud, obsessed with farming, in a relationship with Reagan). Once it's clear that Nick is a selfish narcist that uses her as only a stepping stone and Levi is not only single and attracted to her, but also a equally big nerd with a growing passion for fanfiction, their roles get reversed.
    • Cath is also Betty towards Levi with Reagan as Veronica. Or not, he and Reagan don't intend to ever get romantically involved again, leaving the dynamic as a Red Hering.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Cather and Wren's argument about reconciling with their mother. Wren points out that she has the right to do so and visit, and Cath cannot micromanage her decisions. Cath retorts that their mother left them and didn't even call while they were teens, and she's just going to mess everything up again; she also gets insulted when Wren says that Cath needs to come as well because Cath needs to be "dragged along" to social activities. She goes Don't You Dare Pity Me! and says she doesn't need a mother. Cath ends up being proven right; Laura leaves Wren in a hospital when Cath arrives to help, and only wants to be Facebook friends with her daughter.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Levi has this problem when he develops feelings for Cath. It causes them both ample heartbreak.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Cath has a moment where Wren mentions visiting their mother over Christmas; she just calmly says, "Okay" and tries to avoid a fight about it. Wren then starts saying she can't believe that Cath is "making" her do this alone and that Cath wouldn't do anything if Wren didn't "drag her along" to social gatherings. Cath gets really insulted by this and tells Wren that she doesn't need her sister to drag her along anywhere, and especially not to spend time with a parent who broke them. This marks the point where they stop talking like sisters because she's angry that Wren wants to force her to have a relationship with their estranged mother and that her twin doesn't even want to hang out with her.
  • Doorstopper: In-universe. The final Simon Snow novel is at least 719 pages long. Cath also notes that it's around 3 inches thick.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Baz is this in-universe in the Simon Snow fandom.
  • Easily Forgiven: When their mother reaches out to them, Wren is more than happy to renew the bond. Cath isn't as forgiving, deepening the rift between her and Wren.
  • Enemy Mine: What actually happens in book 8, the canon, is that Baz offers to help Simon under a truce, so as to save the school and magic. He still hates Simon and will still pursue Agatha, but he has a vested interest in stopping the Humdrum.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Cath knows something is wrong when her dad threatens to pull Wren out of school after she nearly dies from alcohol poisoning. She can't defend Wren either, since Wren risked her life.
    • Reagan, Levi, and Wren are disgusted when Nick comes to Cath begging for her to approve publication of their "anti-love" story in the school literary journal, and realizing that Nick has an It's All About Me attitude about it.
  • Expy: The Simon Snow series is an expy of the Harry Potter series, with Simon as Harry and Baz as Draco Malfoy. Though confusingly Harry Potter also exists in this world.
  • Foe Yay: In-universe. Cath writes about Baz and Simon Snow's potential chemistry in her fanfiction.
  • Foreshadowing: Cath gets Anger Born of Worry when Wren drunk-texts a 911 at her and meant to reach roommate Courtney; as Cath puts it, "911 is for EMERGENCIES!" The next time Cath's Caller ID shows Wren, Wren is hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cath claims that the reason she's messed up is that her mother left her and Wren when they were only eight, and never returned.
  • Friendship as Courtship: What Cath assumed was happening with Abel. They grew up as neighbors, went to prom together, she got small presents for her birthday and they even kissed once. When they go to different colleges and he messages her that he fell in love with a girl there, she tries to feel upset about him "cheating" and defend her would-be relationship, with little success.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Shown with Cath and Levi and Reagan.
    • Levi is Reagan's ex-boyfriend but he and Cath are attracted to each other. Reagan actually becomes a reluctant Shipper on Deck when she learns this.
    • Then when Levi is convinced that Cath has no feelings for him, he kisses another girl at a party right when she comes to admit feelings for him. Love Hurts.
    • This was also the reason why Reagan and Levi broke up: Reagan just kept cheating on him. As she puts it, she's an awful girlfriend which may be the reason why she goes through boyfriends so quickly.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: One shows up in the fanfiction Cath reads to Levi, nearly mauling Simon and Baz.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: In canon, Baz seemingly pulls a Heel–Face Turn in book eight, while promising Simon that he'll never stop pursuing Agatha, just to mess with his roommate. From what we, Cath and Levi see, it's unknown if the heel sticks or if it was strictly an Enemy Mine as Baz claims.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Cath describes Nick's "anti-love" story as this, where he makes himself as a good-looking protagonist. Since she's an expert at writing love stories and fanfiction, she helps him tone it down.
  • Heroic BSoD: Cath suffers this before finals, owing to the stress of the school year, academic and romantically. It takes a few weeks for her to recover. Levi dating her helps.
  • Hidden Depths: Levi and Reagan are surprised when they learn that Cath does emergency dance parties to Kanye West when she's feeling down. Levi says he took her for the type to like moodier music.
    • Levi is such a big nerd that he can quote half the movies he has ever watched.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Reagan. When she realizes Cath has no idea where the dining hall is, she immediately takes the latter under her wing and starts eating meals with her. Cath admits that she thinks that she is Reagan's best "girl" friend.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Inverted, if one considers Cath as the Morality Pet to Wren. Cath stops talking to Wren for three months following the winter holidays, only to realize how things far have gone when Wren's hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.
  • Left Hanging: After Cath spends the whole book trying to finish Carry On, Simon before Gemma T. Leslie finishes the canon series it's never mentioned if she finishes it or not.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: In-universe, Nick apparently, loves these. Cath has to tell him to quit it with girls who stop driving to wish on dandelions. Possibly provides some foreshadowing for the way he views and treats Cath.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Averted in one instance. Though Professor Piper was partially responsible for Cath's Heroic BSoD with her Brutal Honesty about what plagiarism is, she doesn't seem to realize that when asking for Cath's final assignment, which said BSOD helped dismantle.
    • Cath feels this way when she and Levi kiss when she thinks he's dating Reagan and when Wren could have died from alcohol poisoning after they had stopped speaking to each other.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Cath doesn't raise an eyebrow when a bar drunk leers at her and Wren and talks loudly about getting them drunk enough to make out. Levi, on the other hand, gets angry and convinces Wren's boyfriend to throw a much-needed punch.
  • Never My Fault: Oh, so much.
    • Laura, Cath and Wren's mother. Apparently it's okay to abandon your kids and then try to have a friendship with them instead of a parental relationship.
    • Nick Manter practically oozes this. He blames Cath for his losing a teaching assistantship because he submitted a story that they had worked on together without crediting her, even though he made the decision to leave her name off.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Cath knows something is wrong if her father is mad at either her or Wren. He manages to talk her out of dropping out of school, and puts his foot down when Wren nearly dies from alcohol poisoning.
  • Parental Abandonment: Wren and Cath's mom walked out on them when they were young. Cath insists it was on 9/11, since it was the defining fight.
  • Parents as People: Laura, their mom, walked out on them when they were little because she couldn't handle the stress. She returns, but wants to be a friend instead of a caretaker. Their father is deeply loving and has a close relationship with his daughters, but also suffers from manic episodes and sometimes needs to be taken care of by them. Towards the end, their mother bails on Wren when she's in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, showing that she still can't handle big responsibilities. Wren accepts this; Cath can't. Their dad finally puts his foot down over the poisoning incident and also insists the girls live their own lives without worrying about him.
  • Parting Words Regret: Averted. Wren survives her alcohol poisoning. As a result, however, she and Cath reconcile even though Cath refuses to speak to their mother.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Happens twice.
    • Professor Piper flunks Cath for turning in fanfiction as an assignment, chiding her for not realizing that using another author's characters is plagiarism.
    • The second instance is intentional: Nick Manter turns in a story that he and Cath collaborated on as his own. Professor Piper catches him because she recognizes Cath's voice.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Cath and Wren look identical, but couldn't be more different. Wren likes to go out and party, while Cath prefers to keep to her room.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Wren plus several months of partying and binge drinking equals hospitalization, eventually. Her dad only lets her go back to college if she attends AA meetings and comes home every weekend.
    • Cath tries to turn in a piece about Baz as an Unreliable Narrator for a college homework assignment. Professor Piper has to flunk the assignment and says that even if the words and story were Cath's, the character and worlds don't belong to her and she had to turn in an original project. Levi even mentions that Professor Piper must like Cath a lot to not report her to the Honor Council for plagiarism.
    • Laura gives and receives this trope: On one hand, a woman who openly walked out on her kids for ten years may not have reconciled her issues that led to the abandonment, and may never will. On the other hand, she shouldn’t have expected that Cath would be willing to talk to her after both abandoning her and not making any serious effort to contact her. She accepts Cath’s ultimatum to either talk to her now or never by choosing never and becomes Facebook friends with Wren. However, Wren implies that it won’t last long due to Laura still giving less effort.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Cath's dad, which is amazing considering he suffers from manic episodes and has needed hospitalization. He stays out of the girls' lives except when he needs to put his foot down, like with Wren's alcoholism nearly killing her. He also is fine with the girls staying up late and dating, as long as they take care of themselves.
    • Professor Piper. She has to flunk Cath for turning in fanfiction as an assignment, but doesn't turn her into the Honor Council, since she intuits that Cath didn't really know that fanfiction is a form of plagiarism. She also gives Cath an extension on her final project since Cath had a legitimate excuse with her father hospitalized.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Reagan and Cath's dad both tend to swear on a regular basis.
  • Skewed Priorities: Discussed when Cath is trying to finish both her fanfiction and the previous semester's final writing assignment at the same time.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When Levi hears about the plagiarism debacle, he mentions that it's a good sign that Professor Piper didn't report Cath to the Honor Council; he also says the simple solution is don't submit fanfiction for classwork. Cath concedes on that point and makes sure all of her material submitted afterward is original.
  • The Caretaker: Cath wants to be this for her dad, but he tells her to focus on her education. His boss "fucking Kelly" serves as one for her dad's career life, and Cath's grandmother also comes to cook meals.
  • Tough Love: Art tends to be right when he is losing his temper. He tells Cath that dropping out of college because it's too hard is the equivalent of quitting and that sets a precedent for life. Cath needs a few days to admit that he's right, especially when he says that she doesn't have to take care of him. Later, he says that Wren is out of control with her drinking and that if she doesn't see a counselor and go cold turkey, he's making her drop out.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe: Nick Manter seems to believe this.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Levi tears into Cath for caring more about finishing Carry On, Simon before the release of the last Simon Snow book rather than finish her fiction assignment since not many professors give second chances and they are on scholarship.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Why Professor Piper gives Cath an extension on her final writing assignment, telling her that she is a good writer.

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