Book Review: Fangirl Vol 1: The Manga

I love the Fangirl novel by Rainbow Rowell. It is one of my favourite books ever, and it is still something I will reread when I need something comforting. It follows Cath, a nerdy college student whose love of Simon Snow (essentially Harry Potter) is the most important thing in her life.

I think it is important to preface this by saying that Rainbow Rowell has received criticism about her portrayal of her Korean character Park in Eleanor & Park, and she hasn’t really addressed this. It doesn’t pertain specifically to this book, but I think it is useful information to have when thinking about whether or not to go for a book. My love of Fangirl predates this particular issue, so I imagine I may feel differently about approaching it for the first time if I was to think about it now.

This manga adaptation is by Sam Maggs, who has worked on all sorts of comics, and by manga artist Gabi Nam in her first English manga. The first thing I have to say about this is that it is beautiful. Every panel is absolutely gorgeous and there’s something whimsical about the way the characters are drawn that I just love.

The plot is exactly the same as the novel- shy, nerdy fanfiction writer Cath heads off to college. She’s feeling disconnected from her twin sister Wren and struggles to find her place in college. Her roommate Reagan and Reagan’s sort-of boyfriend Levi take Cath under their wing. All of this takes place while Cath’s dad is struggling with his mental health.

The characters in this story are great- I personally love Reagan, who is big (literally, she’s portrayed in such a powerful way in the manga) and brash, completely unapologetic about the space she takes up in the world.

It’s sort of romantic; there are definitely romantic elements, but this story is really about Cath. I think it deals beautifully with the idea of fandom: to what extent is fandom a good thing? Is fanfiction a valid form of creative writing? (To which the answer, in my opinion, is yes, of course.)

It is sweet, and feel-good, and beautiful. I’d definitely recommend this one.