I should be honest before I launch into this book review:I didn’t finish the book. I wanted to, I really did but I had to give up on it. I might finish it someday because there was enough interesting and thought provoking content that I thought it still warranted a review in the mean time.
Ok so let me tell you what the book is even about. So Kathleen Smith is a therapist and fangirl. I learned about The Fangirl Life on a fandom podcast – either Woman Up! or Fansplaining if you have a hankering for a really good podcast or 2, even if you don’t read the book, maybe you’ll get something out of this. I decided to read it because I thought it’d address a wide range of Fangirl experiences.
A lot of the content was really relevant and insightful. BUT it was a lot more narrowly focused on the impact anxiety has on how some people might approach fandom and what to do if it is taking over you life. I am a very anxious person, so I wanted to love the book but I also didn’t really find I was relating to WHY I was reading it because my fandom has never taken over my life. Sure, I’m a volunteer for the Harry Potter Alliance and I love to fangirl squeal about my favourite characters and stuff but, trust me, Kathleen Smith isn’t saying that being invested in fandoms is bad, just that it shouldn’t be the primary thing in your life that takes priority above all else (including school or work and having it affect relationships).
I do hear about people neglecting things like school or friendships in sole favour of their fandoms or basing way too much of their lives on their favourite characters or expecting people to live up to the unrealistic expectations that their favourite characters demonstrate. I think for people who want to deal with their anxieties / triggers / stressors and why they’re using fandom as a comforting blanket to help them cope, this would be an amazing book to read to begin the process. Because like, that way people can find more balance in their lives and not feel unnecessarily distressed if a beloved character dies or having all of this anxiety that probably won’t go away just because of fandom. Heck, even if your in therapy or something it might be good because therapists don’t necessarily “get” fandom. With that said, I think it could be really useful for a lot of people.
Something I wish had been addressed were things like how good fandom is for some people. Like fandom has actually helped a lot of people I know through their depression or anxiety or through exoloring their sexuality or gender through their favourite characters or shows or books. Obviously in a perfect world no one would ever get obsessed and cross the line to the point where fandom is a new source of anxiety (like when you can’t check the comments/next chapters on your favourite fic). But, honestly, I think that fandom and stories has been so helpful to people. I don’t think Kathleen Smith was in any way saying not to engage in fandom. In fact, she did emphasize the importance of story and how those of us who love stories can use them to our advantage, such as focusing on telling our own story.
So I don’t know, I guess what she was saying was definitely useful. For the right readers. It’s just not the book I needed or wanted to be reading right now. I read about half of it though, so I feel like I read enough to have an idea of what was going on.
Title: The Fangirl Life: A guide to all the feels and learning how to deal
Author: Kathleen Smith
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication: July 5, 2016
Page count: 240
Genre: Social science, Self help, Fandom