Spoiler Warning: This blog contains spoilers for and excerpts from the books Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, and Shipped by Meredith Tate.

Have you ever read a book within a book? A story within a story? Well, we sure have and we love them! Whether it’s through fanfiction or original stories, we love to see book characters flexing their writing skills. In this blog, we’ll be talking about four of our favorite YA books that feature characters who are excellent wordsmiths and craft their own tales within the books they exist in

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

Cath loves the Simon Snow story. Like, really loves it. It connected her to her twin sister, Wren, and helped them get over being abandoned by their mother. Now, in their first year of college, Wren wants to shed the fangirl title and branch out, leaving Cath on her own. With a new environment, a stranger as a roommate, critical professors, and a cute boy giving her attention, Cath turns to Simon Snow more than ever. She does what she is best at: write Simon Snow fanfiction. 

“Carry on, Simon” is one of the most popular Simon snow fanfiction stories out there. Cath puts her favorite ship together when she writes Simon pining after his friend and roommate, Baz. It’s Cath’s escape from the pressures in her life and she loves it more than Wren could ever imagine. But when school work and new friends take up more and more of her time, dealing with the demanding fans of  “Carry on” gets stressful. Simon represents so much for Cath that she can never truly let him go. “Carry on, Simon’s” storyline was so popular with fans of Fangirl that Rainbow Rowell ended up writing a three-book series of the fanfiction with the same name. Here’s an excerpt from Cath’s fanfiction of “Carry on, Simon”:

“‘I’m not afraid of you, Baz.’

‘Why not?’ Baz whined. It was an animal whine. Wounded.

‘Because I know you. And I know you wouldn’t hurt me.’ Simon held out his hand and gently pushed back the errant lock of black hair. Baz’s head tilted up with the touch, his fangs popped and gleaming. ‘You’re so strong, Baz.’

Baz reached for him then, clutching Simon around the waist and pressing his face into his stomach. 

Agatha slid out from between them and ran toward the fortress. Simon held Baz by the back of his neck and curved his body over him. ‘I know,’ Simon said. ‘I know everything.’”

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Sweet and shy Tessa Johnson is a romantic at heart, and that’s reflected in the fluffy romance stories she writes. After getting her start writing fan fiction, Tessa moved on to creating her own, original stories—romance stories, specifically, featuring Black heroines who always get the swoon-worthy guys in the end. When Tessa starts at her new creative arts high school, she’s excited to take her writing to the next level. But after reading some of her classmates’ work, she comes down with a bad case of imposter syndrome, and the words that once came so easily to her are just… gone. But after enacting a crazy plan concocted by her best friend and falling into a whirlwind romance with the guy she least expected to fall for, Tessa’s words come back to her, and they’re better than ever!

We weren’t just captivated by the story Elise Bryant wrote in Happily Ever Afters. We were captivated by the romance stories Tessa wrote, too. We caught glimpses of the decadently sweet romance stories Tessa wrote and found ourselves wanting to read more of them, too! We loved seeing a book character who was unabashedly passionate about writing love stories. There’s such a stigma surrounding the romance genre—many say it’s not “real” or “worthy” literature. But we, and Tessa Johnson, fully disagree with that! Love stories can be just as impactful as any other story in any other genre, and the fact that we’re gushing over Tessa’s love stories is proof of that. Here’s an excerpt from one of Tessa’s love stories that we just can’t get enough of:

“Thomas’s eyes didn’t leave Tallulah as he played his first song, and then his second and third. Even though the room was full of people, Tallulah felt like it was just the two of them. All of her worries melted away, because it was so clear from his words, his gaze, the music that flowed between them, that the moment in the rain had been real. This beautiful boy saw her—wanted her—like she wanted him.”

Check out our podcast episode all about Happily Ever Afters here!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Romy Silvers truly is the loneliest girl in the universe. She was born on a spaceship and, for the first twelve years of her life, the only people she ever knew were her parents. But when they both die in a tragic accident, Romy is left well and truly alone. The only things she has to keep her company are her therapist, Dr. Molly, who she can only communicate with via email with a months-long delay in replies, and her favorite TV show, Loch & Ness. With not much else to do besides her schoolwork and rewatching old Loch & Ness episodes, Romy spends a lot of her free time doing what every fangirl—even the ones who were born in space—loves to do: write fanfiction. 

For Romy, fanfiction is not just a way for her to engage with her favorite TV show. It’s also a way for her to work through the complicated emotions she feels as a young girl who has grown up completely alone in space. She takes her feelings—her anguish at being alone, her fear of losing the few tethers to the world that she has, her longing for true companionship—and applies them to Jayden and Lyra, the main characters of Loch & Ness. With her fanfiction, Romy is able to take control of her feelings and circumstances. Jayden and Lyra become her characters that she is able to control the destinies of while she exists in a world where she has never had control of her own destiny. Here’s a snippet of one of our favorite Loch & Ness fanfics Romy wrote:

“When Lyra realized that she was uninjured, she let out a breath, relieved and filled with adrenaline. She peered up at her savior, lying on top of her where they had fallen. It was her neighbor, the hot one from upstairs. He had brown eyes, sparkling golden in the early morning light. There was a quirk to his smile like he was trying to hide his amusement. 

‘You’re OK,’ he said, his voice a low, calming murmur in her ear. ‘Relax.’

Lyra sagged under his—very solid—chest. 

‘Thanks,’ she said, her voice cracking in an embarrassing way. ‘I’m Lyra.”

‘Jayden. It’s great to meet you, neighbor,’ Jayden continued. ‘I just wish we were meeting in less exceptional circumstances.’”

Check out our podcast episode all about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe here!

Shipped by Meredith Tate

Stella is Gene Connolly Memorial High School’s self-proclaimed biggest nerd. She is one of the school’s top two students vying for the Valedictorian title and a proud member of the Warship Seven fan club. Stella takes fan culture seriously. She works hard in school and ever harder on her fanfiction. When she sees another fan posting fan art in their Warship Seven forum, a friendship blossoms. What neither of them knows is that Stella is messaging her enemy, the other student competing for the Valedictorian title, Wesley Clarke. With SciCon coming up, the two plan to meet. 

Stella and Wesley, or CaptainJillsBFF22 and CERanger11, trade their art. Stella sends Wesley her fics shipping Warship Seven’s captain, Jill, and the ship’s prisoner, Aaron, to sway Wesley to the, in Stella’s opinion, right side. Wesley draws art that illustrates her fics, and maybe, just maybe, gets swayed a little. For Stella, writing fanfiction isn’t only a fun pastime, it is a way to fill the void of the show getting canceled and to right the wrongs in the show with fix-it-fics. Here’s an excerpt from one of Stella’s fix-it-fics: 

“‘What do you want?’ she snaps, keeping her pistol raised, like he’s the same CE ranger he was on the day they met.

Aaron gapes at her for a moment. And in that moment, she’s everything: everything he wants, everything he wants to be.

He takes a step toward her. ‘I shouldn’t have left.’

Jill freezes, not daring to lower her weapon.

‘In all my years at the CE academy, I made a lot of mistakes.’Aaron takes another step toward her. ‘But leaving you behind was the worst one I ever made.’”

Check out our review of Shipped here!

PRR Writers Adrianna Muñoz and Sadie Cruz