The Harry Potter Generation Goes To College

ImageKirkus Reviews described Rainbow Rowell’s first novel Attachments as a “Spring break kind of book”, a charming and enjoyable read. Then wrote that Rowell’s second book Eleanor and Park—which was a Printz Honor book—as “funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.” Now, when it comes to Rowell’s third book, Kirkus has one thing to say: absolutely captivating.

Fangirl is a book for a whole new generation—the Harry Potter generation, the nerd generation, the fangirl generation. The book is about college freshman Cather Avery, or, as the fan fiction internet community knows her, magicath. Cather is an avid Simon Snow fan, Simon Snow being the rights and royalties-free version of Harry Potter. She has posters, collectibles, wands, T-shirts, and an undying loyalty to the fantasy children’s series. The most important thing in her life is her fan fiction story about Simon and his evil roommate/love interest Baz, a fan fiction that has earned Cather thousands of fans.

On top of this, Cather is a twin, her sister Wren also a huge Simon Snow fan. Both Cather and Wren enter their first year of college together, though Wren has decided that they should not be roommates so they can branch out and meet new people. Cather is not a fan of this idea. She doesn’t like new places or new people, and as any college student can attest, that is the definition of freshman year. So Cather finds herself having to deal with all the stress of her first year at college, including a brusque roommate, a boy who always seems to be hanging around her room, a writing class whose professor fails to appreciate the appeal of fan fiction, a writing partner who fails to appreciate the collaborative process, a sister who more than delves into the partying scene, and a dad whose empty nest is proving too much to handle. And then there is “Carry On”, Cather’s fan fiction that she is determined to finish before the release of the last Simon Snow book. And then there’s the boy who’s always hanging out in her room, and the fact that she might like him.

That’s a lot to deal with for an eighteen-year-old girl, and at some points it proves to be almost too much for Cather. And while not every college freshman deals with all those issues thrown together, boys and girls experience some of what Cather goes through. And almost everyone in our generation—the Harry Potter generation—has experienced Cather’s relationship with the Simon Snow story, which I think is the biggest appeal and insight in the book.

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Rainbow Rowell

Students who are about college age right now are the kids who were relatively young when the first Harry Potter book came out. They’re the ones who grew up with the series—dressing up for the midnight premieres of the movies, reading the new books the night they came out, making Halloween costumes, dreaming about attending Hogwarts, writing fan fiction. Fangirl is “absolutely captivating” because it captures the college freshman experience for the Harry Potter generation, for the nerds and Potterheads who wrote their own Hogwarts acceptance letters, know how to play Quidditch, and believe in “always”.

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