I don’t usually read sweet, simple love stories. I thrived on them in high school, but I more often find myself reading agonizing accounts of a life spent in slavery in a dystopian world or gigantic Russian tragedies or clever meditations on the futility of connection- all of which I love. Yet something has changed. After a few solid hours of Trumpspeak and a few too many political retweets, I have begun feeling so jaded. Somewhere around the time I caught myself throwing my pillows across the room while reading my New York Times alerts, I knew that I needed to be reading something wholly different.
I started reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for a bookclub. I will admit to being generally skeptical whenever I crack open a YA novel. Whether fair or not, they have to work harder to convince me I should be reading them than most books do. I acknowledge my prejudice. I couldn’t put this book down. Reading it made me remember what it was like to be in college- young, naive, scared shitless of almost everything. The book is about a college freshman and her first year. She’s an epic fanfic writer, chronicling the romantic intertwining of two characters from a Harry Potter-esque series. She writes, falls in love, deals with her difficult family, grows up. It’s textbook coming of age with slash fiction thrown in for good measure.
I was enjoying the easy cadences of Rowell’s writing, happy to be lulled into this sort of easy escapist fiction when I began to understand why I was enjoying it so much. Because here’s the kicker: Rowell is a really good writer. Fangirl is written with such sympathy for its characters. Meet cutes don’t feel contrived and connections between characters feel genuine. And that’s what Rowell’s fiction is across the board: genuine. She is a warm, witty, sympathetic writer and that has been borne out in each of her books. I’ve now read three of them and each one felt like drinking a mug of tea while snuggled up with your honey on a cold winter’s night. The political winds were howling outside but it became just so much background noise.
Her stories made me remember what it felt like to want to hold hands with that cute guy in my Fiction class. It made me want to want the mushy stuff again. It made me decide to stop pretending like I hate Valentine’s Day. Now isn’t that something?