Book Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sam Maggs (2015)

May 13th, 2015 1:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

One of Us!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

A fangirl has no shame: she loves what she loves and she doesn’t apologize for it, she doesn’t restrain herself, she’s not meek. Girls are often told to be quiet little ladies. A fangirl doesn’t care about being quiet. She does exactly what she wants, courageously, to celebrate the things she loves. – Beth Revis

You are a real geek if you feel it in your feels.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a love letter to all the geek girls out there: the cosplayers, the book nerds, the binge-watchers, the slash fic aficionados. Whether you’re a Hunter or a Browncoat, a Ravenclaw or a Victor, Sam Maggs wants you to know that you’re awesome, and you matter.

So. The The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t quite what I was expecting, but in the best way possible. Whereas I thought it would be encyclopedic in nature, it’s really more of a cunning pocket guide to the wide world of fandoms. Divided into four chapters (plus an intro and list of resources), Maggs offers tips and tricks for fangirling out in the real world; online; at conventions; and in yer feminism (best).

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You’ll find a wealth of advice: everything from cool events to check out IRL (zombie walks, pub trivia night, midnight screenings, book clubs) to safety tips for being a fangirl (or just plain girl) on the internets (think of everything shared online as a horcrux – part of you, set to roam the world for all of eternity), to how make the most of celeb encounters at cons (pro tip: signings will score you a few more minutes of face time than a photo op).

Maggs rounds out each chapter with interviews of several famous fangirls – I’m talking the likes of Beth Revis and Victoria Schwab (both of whom have books in my too-tall TBR pile) to Jane Espenson and Ashley Eckstein. My favorite soundbites come from Schwab (“You are an emissary, a missionary, converting new people to the fandom wherever you can.”), Revis (“[R]eal happiness comes from that deep, honest place within myself that geekdom allowed me to embrace.”), and Erin Morgenstern (fangirls are “leveled-up” fans).

ETA: The Fangirl’s Guide is packed with inspirational, quotable bits. Maggs is an associate editor for the blog The Mary Sue, and it shows; the writing is trendy and hip, and packed with geek slang. (Don’t worry, there are glossaries!) Again, in the best way possible: it kind of feels like you’re getting the 411 from an older sister or trusted friend.

2011 FSMas Card MAIN

The 2011 Garbato-Brady FSMas card, starring rescue dogs Kaylee and Jayne. In our house, there’s also a Mags and Finnick (District Four, represent!) and an O-Ren Ishii (I’d say that she deserved her own movie, but her role in Volume 1 was nothing to sniff at). Ralphie and Peedee are the only ones who arrived with their own names. For cats, there’s Ozzy (Osbourne) and Lemmy (Kilmister). Shane names the cats, I name the dogs; that’s the deal. But should we ever adopt a female cat, I’ll be fighting his Lita with my Catra, mark my words.
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But my favorite part of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is, hands down, its strong feminist foundation. From the inclusion of “trigger warning” in the glossary to the mantra that “cosplay isn’t consent,” Maggs infuses her celebration of geek girl culture with a much-needed dose of feminism.

Best of the best is the how-to guide for critiquing pop culture. Cue must-know terms like the Bechdel Test; women in refrigerators; Manic Pixie Dream Girl; damsels in distress; sexy evil powers; tokenism/The Smurfette Principle; and romanticizing abuse.

And it should come as no surprise to readers of The Mary Sue that Magg’s feminism is intersectional in nature. The super-adorable illustrations featured in The Fangirl’s Guide include fangirls of color; racism, ableism, classism, etc. are addressed right alongside sexism; and her starter’s guide to “kick-ass female characters you need to know” highlights LGBTQ women and women of color. (My love for Zoë Alleyne Washburne knows no bounds. Also, Gina Torres for all the things!)

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is just plain shiny. Wonderfully diverse, unabashedly enthusiastic, and positively positive, it’s likely to appeal to fangirls (and not a few fanboys) of all ages. (I may be an old lady at 36, but even I learned a few new things!) But I think it’s best suited for new or budding fangirls in the twelve-to-eighteen-year-old range – girls who feel alone in their passions, who need a little validation and encouragement and to know that, no matter how obscure or unusual their interests, their people are out there. While sexy times are discussed on occasion (e.g., fanfic), the language is pretty tame overall. Parents, aunts and uncles, family friends, and the like should feel good gifting this book to the awesome young fangirls in their lives.

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Bonus points: Hardcover books are generally pretty ugly naked (i.e. sans dust jacket), but this one’s positively adorable. Printed on the cover are illustrations of geeky props – swords, superhero masks, Sherlock hats, the Tardis, etc. – on a bright yellow background. It’s in the details, yo!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: The illustrations feature multiple fangirls of color, and the chapter on “Geek Girl Feminism” includes a discussion of intersectionality, as well as a list of recommended comics/movies/games/etc. which feature LGBTQ, WOC, and disabled protagonists. There’s also a strong intersectional feminist foundation throughout.

 

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