Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

Rowell gets strong reviews for her YA novels, especially this one, so I thought I should take a look. Here we meet Cath from Omaha, a new freshman at the University of Nebraska, who is not at all sure she’ll be able to adapt to it. She doesn’t do well at all with new places, new people, or new experiences. She isn’t all that crazy about the Real World, for that matter.

Which is why she writes and posts online a series of very popular “fanfiction” stories set in the world of Simon Snow, young student of magic, whose seven books have all been huge bestsellers — and ditto the films made from them. Until now, she has been assisted in this endeavor by her identical twin, but Wren (“Cath” + “Wren,” get it?) has decided she doesn’t want to room together in college, or even live in the same dorm. Wren wants to meet new people — which is exactly what Cath, feeling abandoned, does not want to do.

She’s gotten special permission to take a third-year-level creative writing class, though, hoping that it will point her toward an actual career as an author. And it seems to be just the ticket. She has even begun team-writing with another student. But Reagan, her roommate, is decidedly scary. And Reagan has a sort-of boyfriend, Levi, who seems interested in Cath. Yeah, life can be complicated when you’re eighteen. Can she give up her fanfic? Can she look after her Dad long-distance from Lincoln? (He has problems with depression.) And what about their mother, who walked out on them all on September 11th — THE 9/11 — when Cath and Wren were eight years old? And can she avoid becoming estranged from her twin?

Rowell is very good with scene-setting and she does great dialogue, and the narrative flows very nicely — though I could have done with less of the detailed accounting of the homophile adventures of Simon Snow, which is (obviously) a pastiche of Harry Potter — which means Cath is actually writing a pastiche of a pastiche.

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