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Aug 12 2013 4:00pm

Fangirl (Excerpt)

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl Rainbow Rowell Check out Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, available September 10th from St Martin’s Press!

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

 

 

 

The Simon Snow Series
From Encyclowikia, the people’s encyclopedia

This article is about the children’s book series. For other uses, see Simon Snow (disambiguation).

Simon Snow is a series of seven fantasy books written by English philologist Gemma T. Leslie. The books tell the story of Simon Snow, an 11-year-old orphan from Lancashire who is recruited to attend the Watford School of Magicks to become a magician. As he grows older, Simon joins a group of magicians—the Mages—who are fighting the Insidious Humdrum, an evil being trying to rid the world of magic.

Since the publication of Simon Snow and the Mage’s Heir in 2001, the books have been translated into 53 languages and, as of August 2011, have sold more than 380 million copies.

Leslie has been criticized for the violence in the series and for creating a hero who is sometimes selfish and bad tempered. An exorcism scene in the fourth book, Simon Snow and the Selkies Four, triggered boycotts among American Christian groups in 2008. But the books are widely considered modern classics, and in 2010, Time magazine called Simon “the greatest children’s literary character since Huckleberry Finn.”

An eighth book, the last in the series, is set to be released May 1, 2012.

Publishing history
Simon Snow and the Mage’s Heir, 2001
Simon Snow and the Second Serpent, 2003
Simon Snow and the Third Gate, 2004
Simon Snow and the Selkies Four, 2007
Simon Snow and the Five Blades, 2008
Simon Snow and the Six White Hares, 2009
Simon Snow and the Seventh Oak, 2010
Simon Snow and the Eighth Dance, scheduled to be released May 1, 2012

 

 

ONE

There was a boy in her room.

Cath looked up at the number painted on the door, then down at the room assignment in her hand.

Pound Hall, 913.

This was definitely room 913, but maybe it wasn’t Pound Hall— all these dormitories looked alike, like public housing towers for the elderly. Maybe Cath should try to catch her dad before he brought up the rest of her boxes.

“You must be Cather,” the boy said, grinning and holding out his hand.

“Cath,” she said, feeling a panicky jump in her stomach. She ignored his hand. (She was holding a box anyway, what did he expect from her?)

This was a mistake—this had to be a mistake. She knew that Pound was a co-ed dorm.… Is there such a thing as co-ed rooms?

The boy took the box out of her hands and set it on an empty bed. The bed on the other side of the room was already covered with clothes and boxes.

“Do you have more stuff downstairs?” he asked. “We just finished. I think we’re going to get a burger now; do you want to get a burger? Have you been to Pear’s yet? Burgers the size of your fist.” He picked up her arm. She swallowed. “Make a fist,” he said.

Cath did.

Bigger than your fist,” the boy said, dropping her hand and picking up the backpack she’d left outside the door. “Do you have more boxes? You’ve got to have more boxes. Are you hungry?”

He was tall and thin and tan, and he looked like he’d just taken off a stocking cap, dark blond hair flopping in every direction. Cath looked down at her room assignment again. Was this Reagan?

“Reagan!” the boy said happily. “Look, your roommate’s here.”

A girl stepped around Cath in the doorway and glanced back coolly. She had smooth, auburn hair and an unlit cigarette in her mouth. The boy grabbed it and put it in his own mouth. “Reagan, Cather. Cather, Reagan,” he said.

“Cath,” Cath said.

Reagan nodded and fished in her purse for another cigarette. “I took this side,” she said, nodding to the pile of boxes on the right side of the room. “But it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got feng shui issues, feel free to move my shit.” She turned to the boy. “Ready?”

He turned to Cath. “Coming?” Cath shook her head. When the door shut behind them, she sat on the bare mattress that was apparently hers—feng shui was the least of her issues—and laid her head against the cinder block wall.

She just needed to settle her nerves.

To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her throat, and shove it all back down to her stomach where it belonged—where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.

Her dad and Wren would be up any minute, and Cath didn’t want them to know she was about to melt down. If Cath melted down, her dad would melt down. And if either of them melted down, Wren would act like they were doing it on purpose, just to ruin her perfect first day on campus. Her beautiful new adventure.

You’re going to thank me for this, Wren kept saying.

The first time she’d said it was back in June.

Cath had already sent in her university housing forms, and of course she’d put Wren down as her roommate—she hadn’t thought twice about it. The two of them had shared a room for eighteen years, why stop now?

“We’ve shared a room for eighteen years,” Wren argued. She was sitting at the head of Cath’s bed, wearing her infuriating I’m the Mature One face.

“And it’s worked out great,” Cath said, waving her arm around their bedroom—at the stacks of books and the Simon Snow posters, at the closet where they shoved all their clothes, not even worrying most of the time what belonged to whom.

Cath was sitting at the foot of the bed, trying not to look like the Pathetic One Who Always Cries.

“This is college,” Wren persisted. “The whole point of college is meeting new people.”

“The whole point of having a twin sister,” Cath said, “is not having to worry about this sort of thing. Freaky strangers who steal your tampons and smell like salad dressing and take cell phone photos of you while you sleep…”

Wren sighed. “What are you even talking about? Why would anybody smell like salad dressing?”

“Like vinegar,” Cath said. “Remember when we went on the freshman tour, and that one girl’s room smelled like Italian dressing?”

“No.”

“Well, it was gross.”

“It’s college,” Wren said, exasperated, covering her face with her hands. “It’s supposed to be an adventure.”

“It’s already an adventure.” Cath crawled up next to her sister and pulled Wren’s hands away from her face. “The whole prospect is already terrifying.”

“We’re supposed to meet new people,” Wren repeated.

“I don’t need new people.”

“That just shows how much you need new people.…” Wren squeezed Cath’s hands. “Cath, think about it. If we do this together, people will treat us like we’re the same person. It’ll be four years before anyone can even tell us apart.”

“All they have to do is pay attention.” Cath touched the scar on Wren’s chin, just below her lip. (Sledding accident. They were nine, and Wren was on the front of the sled when it hit the tree. Cath had fallen off the back into the snow.)

“You know I’m right,” Wren said.

Cath shook her head. “I don’t.”

“Cath…”

“Please don’t make me do this alone.”

“You’re never alone,” Wren said, sighing again. “That’s the whole fucking point of having a twin sister.”

 

“This is really nice,” their dad said, looking around Pound 913 and setting a laundry basket full of shoes and books on Cath’s mattress.

“It’s not nice, Dad,” Cath said, standing stiffly by the door. “It’s like a hospital room, but smaller. And without a TV.”

“You’ve got a great view of campus,” he said.

Wren wandered over to the window. “My room faces a parking lot.”

“How do you know?” Cath asked.

“Google Earth.”

Wren couldn’t wait for all this college stuff to start. She and her roommate—Courtney—had been talking for weeks. Courtney was from Omaha, too. The two of them had already met and gone shopping for dorm-room stuff together. Cath had tagged along and tried not to pout while they picked out posters and matching desk lamps.

Cath’s dad came back from the window and put an arm around her shoulders. “It’s gonna be okay,” he said.

She nodded. “I know.”

“Okay,” he said, clapping. “Next stop, Schramm Hall. Second stop, pizza buffet. Third stop, my sad and empty nest.”

“No pizza,” Wren said. “Sorry, Dad. Courtney and I are going to the freshman barbecue tonight.” She shot her eyes at Cath. “Cath should go, too.”

Yes pizza,” Cath said defiantly.

Her dad smiled. “Your sister’s right, Cath. You should go. Meet new people.”

“All I’m going to do for the next nine months is meet new people. Today I choose pizza buffet.”

Wren rolled her eyes.

“All right,” their dad said, patting Cath on the shoulder. “Next stop, Schramm Hall. Ladies?” He opened the door.

Cath didn’t move. “You can come back for me after you drop her off,” she said, watching her sister. “I want to start unpacking.”

Wren didn’t argue, just stepped out into the hall. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” she said, not quite turning to look at Cath.

“Sure,” Cath said.

 

It did feel good, unpacking. Putting sheets on the bed and setting her new, ridiculously expensive textbooks out on the shelves over her new desk.

When her dad came back, they walked together to Valentino’s. Everyone they saw along the way was about Cath’s age. It was creepy.

“Why is everybody blond?” Cath asked. “And why are they all white?”

Her dad laughed. “You’re just used to living in the least-white neighborhood in Nebraska.”

Their house in South Omaha was in a Mexican neighborhood. Cath’s was the only white family on the block.

“Oh, God,” she said, “do you think this town has a taco truck?”

“I think I saw a Chipotle—”

She groaned.

“Come on,” he said, “you like Chipotle.”

“Not the point.”

When they got to Valentino’s, it was packed with students. A few, like Cath, had come with their parents, but not many. “It’s like a science fiction story,” she said, “No little kids… Nobody over thirty… Where are all the old people?”

Her dad held up his slice of pizza. “Soylent Green.”

Cath laughed.

“I’m not old, you know.” He was tapping the table with the two middle fingers of his left hand. “Forty-one. The other guys my age at work are just starting to have kids.”

“That was good thinking,” Cath said, “getting us out of the way early. You can start bringing home chicks now—the coast is clear.”

“All my chicks…,” he said, looking down at his plate. “You guys are the only chicks I’m worried about.”

“Ugh. Dad. Weird.”

“You know what I mean. What’s up with you and your sister? You’ve never fought like this before.…”

“We’re not fighting now,” Cath said, taking a bite of baconcheeseburger pizza. “Oh, geez.” She spit it out.

“What’s wrong, did you get an eyelid?”

“No. Pickle. It’s okay. I just wasn’t expecting it.”

“You seem like you’re fighting,” he said.

Cath shrugged. She and Wren weren’t even talking much, let alone fighting. “Wren just wants more… independence.”

“Sounds reasonable,” he said.

Of course it does, Cath thought, that’s Wren’s specialty. But she let it drop. She didn’t want her dad to worry about this right now. She could tell by the way he kept tapping the table that he was already wearing thin. Way too many normal-dad hours in a row.

“Tired?” she asked.

He smiled at her, apologetically, and put his hand in his lap. “Big day. Big, hard day—I mean, I knew it would be.” He raised an eyebrow. “Both of you, same day. Whoosh. I still can’t believe you’re not coming home with me.…”

“Don’t get too comfortable. I’m not sure I can stick this out a whole semester.” She was only slightly kidding, and he knew it.

“You’ll be fine, Cath.” He put his hand, his less twitchy hand, over hers and squeezed. “And so will I. You know?”

Cath let herself look in his eyes for a moment. He looked tired— and, yes, twitchy—but he was holding it together.

“I still wish you’d get a dog,” she said.

“I’d never remember to feed it.”

“Maybe we could train it to feed you.”

 

When Cath got back to her room, her roommate—Reagan—was still gone. Or maybe she was gone again; her boxes looked untouched. Cath finished putting her own clothes away, then opened the box of personal things she’d brought from home.

She took out a photo of herself and Wren, and pinned it to the corkboard behind her desk. It was from graduation. Both of them were wearing red robes and smiling. It was before Wren cut her hair.…

Wren hadn’t even told Cath she was going to do that. Just came home from work at the end of the summer with a pixie cut. It looked awesome—which probably meant it would look awesome on Cath, too. But Cath could never get that haircut now, even if she could work up the courage to cut off fifteen inches. She couldn’t singlewhite-female her own twin sister.

Next Cath took out a framed photo of their dad, the one that had always sat on their dresser back home. It was an especially handsome photo, taken on his wedding day. He was young and smiling, and wearing a little sunflower on his lapel. Cath set it on the shelf above her desk.

Then she set out a picture from prom, of her and Abel. Cath was wearing a shimmering green dress, and Abel had a matching cummerbund. It was a good picture of Cath, even though her face looked naked and flat without her glasses. And it was a good picture of Abel, even though he looked bored.

He always looked kind of bored.

Cath probably should have texted Abel by now, just to tell him that she’d made it—but she wanted to wait until she felt more breezy and nonchalant. You can’t take back texts. If you come off all moody and melancholy in a text, it just sits there in your phone, reminding you of what a drag you are.

At the bottom of the box were Cath’s Simon and Baz posters. She laid these out on her bed carefully—a few were originals, drawn or painted just for Cath. She’d have to choose her favorites; there wasn’t room for them all on the corkboard, and Cath had already decided not to hang any on the walls, out where God and everybody would notice them.

She picked out three.…

Simon raising the Sword of Mages. Baz lounging on a fanged black throne. The two of them walking together through whirling gold leaves, scarves whipping in the wind.

There were a few more things left in the box—a dried corsage, a ribbon Wren had given her that said Clean Plate Club, commemorative busts of Simon and Baz that she’d ordered from the Noble Collection.…

Cath found a place for everything, then sat in the beat-up wooden desk chair. If she sat right here, with her back to Reagan’s bare walls and boxes, it almost felt like home.

 

 

There was a boy in Simon’s room.

A boy with slick, black hair and cold, grey eyes. He was spin ning around, holding a cat high in the air while a girl jumped and clutched at it. “Give it back,” the girl said. “You’ll hurt him.”

The boy laughed and held the cat higher—then noticed Simon standing in the doorway and stopped, his face sharpening.

“Hullo,” the dark-haired boy said, letting the cat drop to the floor. It landed on all four feet and ran from the room. The girl ran after it.

The boy ignored them, tugging his school jacket neatly into place and smiling with the left side of his mouth. “I know you. You’re Simon Snow… the Mage’s Heir.” He held out his hand smugly. “I’m Tyrannus Basilton Pitch. But you can call me Baz— we’re going to be roommates.”

Simon scowled and ignored the boy’s pale hand. “What did you think you were doing with her cat?”

—from chapter 3, Simon Snow and the Mage’s Heir,
copyright © 2001 by Gemma T. Leslie

 


Fangirl © Rainbow Rowell, 2013

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8 comments
T S Davis
1. tee+D
Hmmm! Will look for this one, sounds very interesting.
Aeria Lynn
2. aeria_lynn
OMFL! Did Rowell set this at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?! I recognize those names! This is too awesome. *puts on buy list*
harmonyfb
3. harmonyfb
Cath had already decided not to hang any on the walls, out where God and everybody would notice them.

Color me an old curmudgeon, but I'm really not interested in any YA books which reinforce girls being ashamed of what they love, and hiding who they are so they can better conform to societal ideals of "normal". *

I'd like to see a YA novel where a girl discovers fandom and blossoms - finally finding a creative output and a whole universe of friends who share her interests and her passions - which gives her the courage to give the metaphorical finger to naysayers who try to shove her into the 'typical girl' category. Let me know if there is such a novel, so I can stock it at the library where I work.

(*Full disclosure: I also hate those YA novels whose protagonists obsess about boys. All the middle-grade novels are full of gutsy girls who have fantastic adventures while the YA novels are full of girls/young women who are mooning about 'cute guys'. ::eyeroll:: Why can't the pre/teens have some amazing adventure without any goopy romance?)
harmonyfb
4. SaraLC
Harmonyfb, I think you are misjudging this book based on that sentence. I read an advance copy, and I would absolutely not characterize the book as reinforcing girls being ashamed of what they love and hiding who they are. Cath isn't ashamed of her fanfiction writing and isn't afraid to tell people about it. In my opinion, the narrative doesn't say that Cath has to change or to give up any parts of herself to make friends. (And although there is a romantic element in the book, I didn't see it as the primary focus.)
Paul Starr
5. pts
harmonyfb: I admittedly have not read this book yet (although I want to!) but I will be very surprised if it winds up endorsing nerd shame in the way you suggest it is.

Given the way fannish activity is regarded by the broader culture, it is totally reasonable—even advisable—to maybe not fly your freak flag on the first day of college.

If Cath had gushed to her roommate about fanfic or something on day one and was was greeted with immediate acceptance, encouragement, I would find it dubious at best. I sort of doubt that's going to happen, though.

Really looking forward to this book.
harmonyfb
6. Robinn
This sounds interesting! The thing is, girls are mostly brought up to blend in. I hope it's getting better but the teens I'm around all try to fit into a mold and only really show themselves when they get closer to you. In my experience, most women are that way. I have a dear friend who admitted to writing fanfic after we got to know each other fairly well. She's a fairly brave person and it still took a few visits before she told me. Maybe it's just us older women that are this way. I do (mostly) don't hide my nerd side. I like how now it is socially acceptable to do so. The current nerd "coming out" trend is awesome. I am definitely going to at least read this book; definitely will if it comes out as an ebook!
harmonyfb
7. John Callender
Kindle edition ships on September 10. I ordered mine in March. Closer...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
9. Lisamarie
God, this reminds me a bit of when I went to college. I didn't adjust quite so well as I could have, and had a really hard time making friends (I didn't have a twin sister or anything) and felt everybody else was doing a better job of it than me. It got better, of course, but I still remember how I felt at the beginning.

Although I never realized a person had to come out as a nerd - that was just always who I was. Granted, the college I went to had a special residential science college with its own dorm, AND I was on the Honors Floor so...we were all nerds. It wa spretty awessome.

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