December 1, 2016 · 12:01 am
Fangirl was/is a very important book to me. It did so many things that I rarely saw and it did them relatively well—a character deeply ensconced in fandom, who writes fanfiction on an industrial scale and deeply loves it, and isn’t presented at all as a parody or something awkward to kind of laugh at; a look at the way fandoms can shape and help people and the incredible catharsis that can come from engaging with a creative work; a protagonist with anxiety disorder; a fictional mother that left rather than tragically dying as is the norm; the horrors of plagiarism as a legitimate antagonistic plot device; and, and this is one of the big ones honestly: a YA love interest I actively liked.
Guys, Fangirl was good. Cath was a great, relatable and three-dimensional protagonist and I came to really adore her and support her, and in the end her coming of age didn’t involve her leaving fandom and fanfic behind so much as branching out and embracing other kinds of creativity and friendship as well. And good lord, her relationship with her soft, sweet, good-hearted but ultimately flawed and human love interest Levi was a rare gem of teen romance that I really connected to and enjoyed.
Upon finishing this novel, filled with the popping candy joy of completing a good book, I realised something I hadn’t really thought to notice while reading it: gay people only exist in fanfiction. Continue reading →
June 19, 2014 · 12:33 am
I like to think I’m a pacifistic and generally nice person, but if one thing makes me want to start throwing furniture it’s people being snobbish and awful to each other in totally unnecessary areas. One of these is most definitely the brand of elitism that comes from people who read books looking down on those who don’t. I mean come on, there are far more grievous issues in this tumultuous world of ours, and you’re making the time to turn up your nose at people who take interest in non-novel forms of entertainment?
It’s a huge and stupid problem that manifests itself in all kinds of forms, reinforced naturally enough in a lot of fictional character types and translating into the real world. It’s almost a classist thing, if you trace its roots back to past eras where only the privileged were literate. Or perhaps it stems from the (perfectly grounded, if you end up among the wrong crowd of cranky schoolkids) stereotype of people being teased for being bookish, causing said bookish people to retaliate and want to protect their safe space, or take the opportunity to rise up and be the bully they always feared. For the record, not everyone does this. As with most forms of isms, it’s only a select and vocal percentage that manage to ruin it for everyone else. But it is something that’s ingrained in us as readers, I think, whether we notice it or not.
A lot of book heroes, for example, are book readers. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s totally cool as it gives the real-world book readers an immediate connection with the character because, whatever magic or adventure might make their lives different, at least they share a hobby. And reading is one of those fantastically immersive hobbies, essentially and easily becoming a way of life. However, the distinction we should make is that it’s those who love stories that share this love, not just those who read (though obviously in things written before movies and the internet and stuff, that’s not an option), and also enforce that your heroes can be perfectly relatable and lovable even if they can’t get through a book. Continue reading →