Author Rainbow Rowell and audiobook reader Rebecca Lowman knocked another one out of the park with Fangirl. The two have also worked together on the audiobooks for Attachments and Eleanor & Park, both of which I’ve five-starred on this site. Rowell again finds the dramedy sweet spot. Real-world problems and triumphs abound. You root for these characters.
Rowell is great, and so is the narration. At this point, three audiobooks in for me, Lowman’s voice is like a warm, cozy blanket by the fire. Max Caulfield, aka REX MANNING, also deserves a shoutout for his very Britishy readings of a few select parts.
Fangirl follows Cath through her freshman year of college. She’s 18, she’s got a cooler twin sister who didn’t want to be her roommate, and she’s low-key got tens of thousands of dedicated followers reading all of her fan fiction. “MagiCath”, as she’s known online, is one of the most famous writers of Simon Snow fanfic. (Simon Snow is the Harry Potter of the Rowell Cinematic Universe, even though Harry Potter also exists in the universe.)
Cath’s freshman year reminded me a lot of my own. She wasn’t quite ready to go to college. Everyone else seems more…experienced, or just ready for this bigger world that Cath isn’t even sure she wants to be part of. In one of my journals, my teenage self observed, “It’s like everyone else is the Fonz and I’m Ralph Malph.” I think Cath would laugh at that. Or, at least, make fun of me in a good-natured way. Rowell captures that feeling as good as, say, Freaks & Geeks, or Stand By Me.
Just as she captures the uncertainty and sadness at losing innocence, Rowell also captures the sense of wonder as the world opens up for Cath. As C.S. Lewis says about Aslan, it may not be safe, but it’s good.