I'm an introvert. A lot of people don't think I am because I'm very involved in a lot of things - I'm in a lot of clubs, I host a book club (IRL and online), and I like to plan parties for people. But I am an introvert, because too much socializing exhausts me, and I need a few days to kick back and just curl up with a book to recover. It's not that I'm antisocial, it's just how I am. I love being with people, but I can't do it all the time. In middle and high school, I also had social anxiety, to the point where I would sometimes try to call in sick on days when I had oral reports. As soon as I got up in front of everyone, I'd shake so hard I could barely stand upright. I would sometimes skip lunch so I could sit in the library and not talk to anyone.
Writing empowered me to find something in myself as a young teen that made me feel really special and talented. I didn't have the best self-esteem growing up, so every review I received on my works when I posted them online made me feel really good about myself. Sometimes, I'd have a bad day, and then I'd read something really nice and then suddenly everything would be all right again, because someone had read something I'd written and found it meaningful in some small way. Connecting with the reading and blogging community also let me find people who shared my interests and reinforced that my opinions mattered. I joined Goodreads as an older teen (19) and quickly, it became a place where I felt that I could be myself. Now, nearly ten years later, I feel perfectly secure in who I am as a person. And while there are many factors that contributed to this, such as finding a good job and earning my own income, and going to a good school, I also credit my writing and my friends in the blogging community as well to contributing to that developed sense of self and self-confidence. When I read the summary for FANGIRL, I was excited initially because FANGIRL was about an introverted, socially phobic girl who found empowerment in writing and in her fandom. I am also an introverted girl who found empowerment in writing and in her fandom. I even wrote fanfiction many, many years ago - Inuyasha, if you're curious - although obviously (wink), I gave that up and switched to original fiction. I thought, "This is going to be a book about a character who is just like me! There is no way that this cannot be good! I am going to read this and feel all the feels and it will be great"
Reader, this book was some serious, mega kind of BS.
I have not hated a character as much as I hated Cath in a long time. I think the last time I encountered a trash person who achieved Dumpster-Grade status was in Molly McAdams's SHARING YOU, another book that let me seething. The difference between the two is that SHARING YOU doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is - a guilty pleasure sort of soap opera 'romance' - while FANGIRL basks in its own inflated self of self-importance, featuring a selfish, whiny, genuinely antisocial main character who is so far up her own rear end that she couldn't find her way out with a spelunking team and a searchlight.
Cath whines nonstop about going to college. She whines about her sister, Wren, not rooming with her. She whines at the idea of being forced to socialize. She judges the heck out of her roommate, Reagan. She locks her roommate's friend, Levi, out of their room, leaving him outside to wait for hours in the hall but not before she basically calls him 'rapey.' She whines about her sister not wanting to read or help her with her stupid fanfiction anymore. She describes somebody like this: "He looked like someone with a steerage ticket on the Titanic. Somebody who'd be standing in line at Ellis Island. Undiluted and old-blooded" (31). She whines about her fanfic readers being too demanding and when she's not acting like her fic has a greater place in her life than her education or even her friends, seems totally ungrateful about her 30,000+ readership. She turns in a fanfic for her ORIGINAL FICTION class and is SHOCKED when the professor gives her an F. Then she argues with the professor over what constitutes original writing. This is a professor who has already allowed Cath to take a class that isn't generally open to freshmen, by the way. She makes fun of someone for reading a "kids' book." She bursts into tears every time someone insults her fandom, acting like it's completely off-limits, when she uses it as an emotional crutch to compensate for her lack of healthy relationships or hobbies. She is upset when her sister gets her t-shirts for Christmas and the shirts aren't fandom shirts. She makes out with her roommate's boyfriend and then says "I'm not that kind of girl." She voluntarily helps this guy in her writing class with his stories, but is condescending AF. Then when she finds out he plans on turning it in for his final assignment, she tries to stop him because it's "her" work too. Then she rats him out to her professor, he gets fired from being teacher's assistant. Oh, and guess what? At the end of the book, his story gets considered for a magazine but the professor (the same one Cath argued with) won't let him publish it unless Cath agrees. Cath refuses, while all of her friends smirk and jeer at him. Which is pretty ironic, considering Cath has her sister help her on her precious fic, and even though Wren is credited on their past works, I don't believe she isn't credited on the most recent story. Cath gets into another argument with her professor over original work, and even though her professor gives her a chance for an extension, Cath considers throwing that all away because she wants to finish her fic before the author of her precious fandom publishes the last book. She gets into a fight with Levi over it, who threatens not to talk to her until the book drops. She cries, but of course, Levi ends up relenting. I would have said sayonara, but that's me. Anyone who's willing to throw their life away over fandom doesn't have their priorities sorted out. She calls Aretha Franklin a "diva" and yet says this of herself: "[W]hen I'm writing Gemma T. Leslie's characters, sometimes, in some ways, I AM better than her." To her professor.
Oh. Oh. Oh.
And the BEST PART OF ALL? Cath decides last minute that maybe she shouldn't completely screw herself on her creative writing assignment, so she writes a last-minute story about her mommy issues (which are also done really badly, and feature a lot of Cath-whining). Her last-minute story ends up winning and getting published in the same magazine she blocked that guy in her creative writing class from publishing in. ISN'T THAT BLEEPING GREAT?
So what is the moral of this story? You can treat people like garbage and be considered adorable, quirky, and eccentric as long as you make sure to tell everyone you're an "introvert"? That all introverts are whiny, nasty creeps? That writers are high-strung, arrogant butt-clowns who should throw out all their opportunities in life and hold their craft above all their relationships? That people involved in fandoms are all using their fandoms as emotional crutches and are highly dysfunctional people? That you can do all this stuff and STILL have everything in your life turn out exactly the way you want it because the world isn't fair and life is one giant, gosh-darn wish fulfillment fantasy?
I don't know what this book was trying to say, but I HATED it with a passion - as a writer, as a fangirl, as an introvert, as an ex-socialphobe, and as a reader, who was hoping to find something to get fangirly about and instead encountered a big, festering planet of garbage populated by The Queen of the Trash People Herself: Cath Avery. Oh, and guess what - you can read Cath's fanfic now because it was published as a book.
I'm honestly shocked that more people aren't complaining about the unflattering portrait of introverts in this book. I was completely disgusted.
1 out of 5 stars