Every now and then, we have a WWW guest post from a female writer who isn’t a published author in the traditional sense (that is, she doesn’t have a book out) but who does have a thriving and regular blog which she writes for. And even though it’s true that almost anyone can have a blog and slap some content up into the Interwebz, cultivating and producing a quality blog takes work, creativity, dedication, and skill. It’s not easy, no matter how easy it might look to someone else.
Today’s review comes to us from Nerija, whose blog Postcards from La-La Land is worth checking out. When I saw her review of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl there, I asked her to share it with the Women Writers Wednesday series, and she graciously obliged. What follows here is a longer/modified version of her review, which was originally posted here.
I first discovered Fanfiction.net in early high school, while searching for evidence that I wasn’t the only lover of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, nor the only Sarah/Jareth shipper (and of course I wasn’t. By any long shot in the universe). I started posting my own fics around junior year, when I was deeply engulfed in the Harry Potter world, as well as in Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series. Nothing on the level of Carry On, Simon, of course.
And then, in May of 2012, I discovered BBC’s Sherlock and fell head over heels for Johnlock (i.e. John/Sherlock). Reading the “excerpts” from Cath and Wren’s Simon/Baz stories has definitely made me nostalgic for those early days in the Sherlock-dom, and had me jonesing for a re-read of my favorite five.
Rainbow Rowell gets it. She gets the joy of expanding and exploring areas of a ‘verse where the original authors/creators haven’t gone, or don’t wish to go. As Raych Krueger of BookRiot sees it, fanfiction can even be an act of social justice, showing viewpoints that traditional publishing as a whole has yet to explore – “The Hunger Games where the heroine isn’t Kantiss [sic] but Rue. Brokeback Mountain: The Short Story Not The Movie where Jack and Ennis escape to some big, gay utopia and live regular lives where sometimes they fight but mostly they just drink coffee together like a couple of married dudes.”
In Fangirl, sisters Cather and Wren (yep, that was their mother’s idea) look beyond the official male/female ships in their favorite book series, and imagine instead a romance between roommates/enemies Simon Snow and Baz (short for Basilton) Pitch. Picture Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy as roommates, or maybe James Potter and Severus Snape.
I kind of love how Rowell translates the Harry Potter phenomenon into the world of Simon Snow and the Mages, switching Hogwarts into the Watford School of Magicks, adding a moat full of merwolves, teachers with names like Miss Possibelf and Professor Chilblains, spells like “Hold your horses” and “Up, up and away,” and some secret-vampire-identity drama. Because who doesn’t love vampire drama?
Fangirl does give a nod to some of the arguments against fanfiction, though the jacket-flap exaggerates re: the attitude of Cath’s creative writing professor. She never disparages fanfiction as a whole/its right to exist. She just doesn’t like students turning it in for assignments. (If I were a creative writing instructor, I would’ve made that clear in my syllabus, so there’d be no confusion later.)
But Fangirl isn’t just about the magic of fandom; it’s also a story of two sisters who adjust to college very differently, one jumping headfirst into the party scene, the other preferring the tight circuit of classes, library, and dorm room. Rowell gets just how overwhelming college life + things back home + your own evolving sense of self can be – so much so that, about halfway through, she started to hit a bit too close to home for me. It’s lucky the story was compelling enough to keep me going after a short break, and of course it’s a credit to Rowell for creating such relatable characters.
I would recommend this to anyone currently experiencing their first year of college; you’ll see you’re really not alone in feeling lost, homesick, confused, or even sometimes out of control. And you’ll see that it is possible to climb back up from the setbacks.
P.S. I totally want to know what Simon Snow and the Selkies Four is about. Who are these four selkies??*
P.S.2. OMG Rowell is actually going to publish a Carry On book, which will actually be about Simon and Baz! Sweet!
It’s pronounced “Neddy-ya.” According to family lore, Nerija’s first word was “knyga,” which is Lithuanian for book. It was either that, or “koja,” which means foot. When she’s not daydreaming about her future as a twister of folk- and fairy-tales, Nerija blogs about Juv/YA books at Postcards from La-La Land. She has also contributed to Insatiable Booksluts, a blog that focuses on small-press literature.
* Nerija has been obsessed with mermaids since she was three, and more specifically selkies – beings that switch between human and seal form – since she was eleven.
To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.
The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.