Here's to Growing Up: A Review of "Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

According to Cambridge Dictionary, “grow up” means “to gradually become an adult”. Yet, that transition between teenage years and adulthood is might be a little blurry to the young eyes. The emotional attachment is too strong to leave it all behind and, at the same time, so many new experiences to live, as well as the wish to accomplish everything fast enough. Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe not. Cath sure does. Wait, who is Cath? She’s a fictional character of a book called Fangirl.

First things first: Fangirl (2013) is a Y.A. novel written by Rainbow Rowell and a must–read for any teenager and young adult going through any kind of change. The story begins with Cath and her twin sister, Wren, going to college. Being there, done that, right? The thing is, after their mother’s death, the sisters got really close, especially because both of them were part of the Simon Snow Fandom, and everybody loves the Simon Snow series of books and movies*.

Credits: Melina Souza

However, their relationship changes when Wren decides to live in a different dorm and Cath must face the life of a freshman, dealing with her father being alone at home, a new roommate and the fact that she is one of the most successful Simon Snow’s fanfiction author, which really is a problem when she realises that her fiction-writing professor thinks fanfiction is the end of the world and her twin thinks fanfiction AND Simon Snow are teenager stuff. To summs it up: Cath feels like she has to grown up, but unlike her sister, she can’t just give up on her adolescence and her life before college.

Although, is this really a problem? As stated by Dr. Selma Alves da Silva**, Behavioral Psychologist, going through changes and struggle for attachment reasons is absolutely normal. “Everybody experiences difficulties in the face of the unknown inherent in each phase of life. When we talk about growing up, to live this phases - childhood, teenagehood, adulthood, parenthood, aging and death - means to deal with changes and unexpected things.”

“The transition between teenage years to ‘fully grown up’ is more than a period of time.”, she continues, “This progress is a mourning for the loss of childhood - in terms of physical body change, expectations of parents and society, in addition to self-questioning like: Who am I? Who I want to be? How long much time do I have to decide my future? And the more difficult a young person is to overcome this transformation, the more vulnerable he or she will be to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other social maladjustments.”

Credits: Pinterest

The key answer? There’s no formula, but do not worry! Finding a path in the pursuit of a social role may be a step. The two most important things when you’re feeling down because you don’t know “what’s next” in your life is to feel important and to feel that you matter. Support, empathy and understanding from other people are also necessary, as this migration phase is marked by emotional conflicts and a lot of insecurity. To seek reference outside themselves, on idols, like Cath does, is something natural but it is essential to remember when to live your own life.

A lot of people think that growing up means growing out of childish things and, however sometimes it does mean to leave parts of us behind, it is vital to find a way of balancing things that are meaningful to us with things that are important for our future. Fangirl explores many themes from this journey - since the fear of leaving home, to the change of relationships as you move on in life - but most of all, it explains the importance of not changing yourself completely when growing. Life is all about finding that balance and about the odyssey we need to fight against to become ourselves.

*Simon Snow is based on Harry Potter and has his own spinoff book, called Carry On.

**If you want to know more about Selma Alves, go to her website