Rainbow Rowell is my new favorite YA author. I much prefer her to the much lauded John Green. Like Eleanor & Park, which broke all kinds of YA boundaries by a having non-white protagonist, Fangirl improves the genre of YA while reverently utilizing its best tropes.
Fangirl is also groundbreaking because it focuses on a girl named Cath who writes very successful slash fanfiction and has a robust online life. Young people have entire online identities that I have never seen depicted in literature and I love that Rowell wrestles with the implications of living in both online and offline worlds. Rowell also completely updates the idea of a nerd by showing how “fandom” creates epic communities that link people through conventions, web comics and fan fiction. And maybe most importantly, Rowell actually produces her own fake slash fiction based off a Harry Potter-like story that demonstrates for old people like me what is so essentially awesome about fan fiction. Cath’s fan fiction weaves throughout the book and accomplishes the near impossible feat of actually proving why Cath is the #1 best fan fiction writer of her era. Rowell basically wrote two different books in tandem, and both are exceptional.
Finally, this is a bad ass teen romance. I squealed audibly when Cath got some action. But following the lead of slash fiction, Rowell plays with the idea of putting the romance between unlikely lovers front and center and not waiting until the last chapter to deliver the make outs.