By Charlotte Stevenson
From 8-12 October York St John University will be holding its inaugural ‘Comfort Reads Week’, hosted by ILE. This week of events seeks to celebrate and explore the power of reading for promoting and ensuring wellbeing. To get in the mood, we asked our students to tell us about their favourite comfort reads. In this post, Charlotte Stevenson shares her love of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
I very rarely reread books once I’ve read them because every time the number of books in existence pops up in my mind, I suddenly have an adrenaline rush urge to stay up for 24 hours, drink 30 gallons of espresso and read everything I can get my hands on. But that said, that anxiety to do more right now without any pauses on our constantly awake planet is soothed by one or two comfort reads which I go back to throughout the year. Each Autumn is a season to look forward to because it means going back to my favourite comfort read of all time: Fangirl.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a book that from an academic perspective I would probably not find interesting. But when I get the opportunity to sit down and choose anything to read, this is it. Immediately, my mind is completely absorbed and my heartbeat starts to slow down to something a little more consistent. I found Fangirl the summer before year one of university and fell head over heels for it, simply because it was distracting, light and completely hilarious right in the middle of the most stressful time I had yet faced. Following the story of American teenagers Cather and her identical twin sister Wren as they head to college, it is beyond relatable for any student especially those studying literature. As they begin classes, experience the turbulence of Freshman life whilst interacting with a gaggle of new friends, it becomes so much harder to put the book down.
My favourite sections are too numerous to count, but springing to mind right now is the chapter when Cather attends her first creative writing class of the semester. As a Freshman amongst Juniors, Cather feels a little floored but incredibly excited to be beginning a module in something she is completely besotted with. The lecturer, Professor Piper, asks the students why it is they write. Mixed in with the responses of those around her, Cather’s list of mental responses that she never voices aloud are so poetic, going a little something like this when you put them together:
To be somewhere else
To get free of ourselves
To stop being anything or anywhere at all
Like jumping rope
To me, Rainbow Rowell became the Jane Austen of the Young Adult genre. This is my comfort read purely for the reason that when I read it I am allowed to feel things at their strongest without feeling I need to put them back in the hat box and jump straight back into the swimming pool of Classics. It is so easy to escape into, so well paced, silly and entirely serious. Whilst there are so many Classics I wouldn’t want to live my life without (namely Frankenstein, Jane Eyre and the recent addition to my favourites of Mary Barton) over all of them I would choose Fangirl, simply because when those texts begin to feel a bit murky, it is Rowell’s clear, straightforward voice and sense of fun that remind me why I study literature and why I am doing what I am doing.
It was the first book I packed into my backpack before my mum drove me to York, the first book I read when I moved to Amsterdam, and now it is set to be the first book I will be reading on my daily commute as a third year student. Whilst Alice in Wonderland can be a close second, Fangirl is always what I want to reach for when I am homesick, stuck on an abandoned station platform or when I am at my happiest. Life isn’t always easy and so it’s soothing to know that when I’m struggling, if I need to get away from the effervescent world and all of its mischief, Fangirl will be there to remind me that there are books to have my back. It’s my comfort read because, as all good books should, it has a habit of simply being in the right place at the right time.
Do you have a favourite Comfort Read you return to time and again? If so, and you’d like to share your love in a 600-800-word post, email our blog editors Adam (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Saffron (email@example.com).