Based on the novel of the same name by Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl is a new, original English language (OEL) manga series about Cath and Wren, identical twin sisters who are entering college. Illustrated by Gabi Nam and adapted from Rowell’s original novel by American comic book writer Sam Maggs, volume one introduces the twins, and is told from the perspective of the more introverted twin, Cath. The sisters spent their teenage years writing fan fiction set in the world of the fictional Simon Snow young adult novel series. Rowell has since adapted this world setting into a novel, but that’s another story.
Cath and Wren’s fan fiction stories have a huge online following. While Cath wants to continue, Wren is ready to move on as they enter college. wanting to separate from her fangirl past and rebrand herself. A classic extrovert, Wren also wants to branch out from her sister and avoid limiting her social options. Cath, on the other hand, would rather find comfort in rooming with her sister, and she has no plans to give up their fan fiction community, continuing to write even more stories.
Volume one opens with Cath moving into her dorm. She meets her roommate Reagan and Reagan’s apparent boyfriend, Levi. Over the course of getting to know each other, the three form a friendship.
The rest of the volume follows Cath as she navigates freshman year both while keeping up with her fan fiction community and trying to excel in her first college level writing class. Along the way, we get little glimpses of the world of Simon Snow fan fiction between the chapters.
Volume one of Fangirl does a fantastic job of drawing the reader into Cath’s world. It quickly establishes characters as well as their personalities, and takes a deep dive into Cath’s struggles. I’m not only speaking of difficulties in class, but personally as well: She worries about her Dad, who’s alone for the first time in years, and about her sister, who will go days between speaking with her.
Cath is also concerned about her fan fiction and ensuring she brings proper closure to her adaptation of the Simon Snow characters before the official author does. For her, these characters are no longer the original author’s; she has taken Baz and Simon in such new, different directions, that they are her cherished characters. She views them so much as her own that when given her first writing assignment for an original short story, she uses them in the story. This leads to her Professor, who is already scoffing at fan fiction, to call it plagiarism.
This raises the question fan fiction writers often have to think about—am I creating a new work or merely expanding upon someone else’s work? Are these characters mine or am I just borrowing other people’s ideas to merely rearrange another author’s work? Firm answers aren’t given in this first volume of the manga, but I have a feeling they will continue to be posed in later ones.
The art is fantastic and filled with great expressions. It’s clearly manga inspired, but a style all Nam’s own that I really enjoy. And Maggs does a wonderful job of adapting Rowell’s original work. The story flows smoothly and the dialogue (written by Rowell and adapted by Maggs) feels real. It’s raw and often unfiltered, just how American college students speak among themselves.
The first volume ends with a number of questions about Wren, Cath’s grades, and Cath’s relationship with both Levi and her writing partner Nick. I look forward to seeing how they’re addressed and learning more about the characters in the next volume.
Overall Rating: A
Art: A — I really enjoy Nam’s art style. The characters were very expressive, which I appreciated, all while still feeling very grounded and real.
Characters: A — Rowell did a fantastic job creating these characters. They all felt genuine. That is not an easy task, especially for adults writing about younger people. Maggs did a great job adapting the dialogue and characters to maintain that feeling.
Story: A — Didn’t I already mention that I’m hooked? They got me. I’m ready to know what happens next; so yea, you could say that I enjoyed the story.
Fangirl Volume 1 can be purchased from Amazon.