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  • Erin Phillips

Book Review: The Fangirl's Guide to the Universe

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe: A Handbook for Girl Geeks written by Sam Maggs, and illustrated by Kat Goodloe, is an update on its previous iteration, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, published in 2015. I can’t comment on the updates, as I’ve never read the previous version, so my review is starting with a clean slate, I suppose.

As a geek of the female persuasion myself, when I saw this book available on NetGalley, I requested a review copy straight away. The brilliant, colorful cover illustration drew me in, as did the title, due to its similarity (which I’m assuming was entirely intentional) to the title of one of my favorite books of all time, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I was happy to notice many little references to iconic people, movies, shows, or books in geek culture throughout the book—a nod and a wink from the author to her intended audience.

I enjoyed the author’s breakdown of the various, more well-known fandoms in the first chapter—especially as Maggs also includes information on how to go about joining the fandoms. It’s not as if there are official membership requirements, of course, but it is nice to know which books, movies, or comics make a good introduction for a noob to a particular fandom. I also appreciated that she included the umbrella terms of “YA Book Nerds” and “Girls Who Game,” because I had never really stopped to consider that those groups are indeed fandoms. They aren’t quite as tight-knit as the more insular fandoms, but they are large groups of people who love the same types of things, which, when you boil it down, is all a fandom really is.

As I read on, I became confused as to the age group The Fangirl’s Guide is meant to be catering to. That might have something to do with Maggs’ lighthearted, witty writing style, which, while fun, can tend to read a bit juvenile. At one point she mentions university residences and workplaces, and even pub trivia nights. Up until seeing that, I was reading this as more of a guide for younger teens. (I was also reading it that way because younger teens are still ‘finding their niche,’ whereas older teens and young adults tend to know more about themselves and their likes and dislikes.

One of my main criticisms of this book isn’t even something the author had control over, however: There is a lot of talk of in-person meet-ups, and even an entire chapter dedicated to attending conventions. This book is being published in October of 2020, and well… you live in 2020, so you know. Now, I know publishing is a slow-moving beast, and this book was probably re-written and edited well before the pandemic really became a thing. But because it is a thing, the Year of Canceled Events has rendered most of that information useless, at least at this time. (God I hope we can have conventions and festivals and whatnot again either next year or the year after—I would love for the chapter on cons to be relevant, and for this quarantine nightmare to end).

Overall, I really enjoyed The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe. Maggs’ witty, tongue-in-cheek prose is a good fit for the subject matter, even if does read a bit juvenile. By the end of the book, I wanted to be friends with the author, and I’m sure her writing will have a similar effect on others as well. This fangirl gives The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe four shining stars.

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