Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a fairly accurate description of what it’s like to be a young white woman attending college in the midwest. Cather and Wren, twins from Omaha, Nebraska, head off to the state school together while following different paths. Cath, the introverted and imaginative one, struggles with coming out of her shell – even to go to the cafeteria for meals. Wren, on the other hand, exemplifies the freedom that many of our students feel when they are away from home for the first time – going out and drinking with newfound friends, straying away from her family, finding out who she is away from home.
Following the two young women through their first year of college, Fangirl also explores the topic of mental illness and how having someone with mental illness in a family can affect all the members. Meanwhile, Cath struggles to define what real life is while she grows increasingly involved in writing fanfiction for her favorite book series – Simon Snow. This struggle between what is real and what is fiction highlights the struggle many of our students have – is academic life “real life?”
Beyond the fact that Fangirl is young adult fiction and written by one of my favorite authors, I can’t help but recommend it to anyone working in an institution to experience even a little of what one student might be going through their first year away from home. It also sheds some light into the world of mental illness and the role of family members when mental illness is a player. It’s a great reminder of how family life and academic life sometimes collide, and it helps us ask the question of what is real?
Take a chance and read it – then tell me what you thought. You can always find me at #SAreads as @Kristen_Abell.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance