REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

November 23, 2013

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park. A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . . But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it.

She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For  Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Cather Avery is about to begin her first year of college and if she wasn't already nervous enough, her twin sister Wren has decided she doesn't want to share a room with her. Cath is used to being the shadow of her sister, who has always been the cool and outgoing one. Whereas Cath's life revolves around the Simon Snow series and creating her own fan fiction stories based on the novels that changed her life. But she wasn't expecting Wren's sudden lust for independence. Cath's normal routine involved looking after her mentally ill father, tagging along with Wren, posting her fanfic 'Carry On' and picking up the pieces her mother left when she abandoned them in third grade. But with her sister drifting further away and a new roommate, new room and new start, will Cath make the most of it or will college be as miserable as she presumes.

Cather was such an incredibly relatable character and I could draw so many similarities between myself and her. If I was to pick a character most like me she would be it. Not to say her anxiety didn't annoy me at times but I found it so easy to connect with her as a person. She was so flawed and that made her all the more realistic and admirable. She managed to develop as a character yet still stay true to herself and that was a beautiful thing to read. In real life I would happily be best friends with this girl. That's the thing with Rainbow Rowell, her characterisation is perfect!

Cath's life literally is all about being a fan of The Simon Snow series. Although Wren has pretty much grown out of helping Cath with her fan fiction, 'Carry On' is constantly being viewed by thousands of online viewers. It's one of the most popular Simon Snow fan-fiction novels on the web. I must admit that I did find the various 'Carry On' snippets that were shown throughout the novel a bit boring and I may have done a bit of skimming. Though as a fangirl myself it is my duty to know what fan fiction is and as someone who has never wrote or read any, Fangirl definitely helped me gain greater understanding of how important fan-fiction can be to a fandom.

Rainbow Rowell is a legend at writing beautiful and somewhat awkward romances and there was no questioning that after Eleanor and Park and Fangirl. I found the romance in this book so adorable and I don't want to ruin one single perfect moment for you. Let's just say that I was so strongly rooting for this romance to happen that when one incident happened, I was so nervous for them I had to put the book down and prepare myself. Eleanor and Park has a huge focus on the romance so I guess I would have liked to see more of the romance side of things in Fangirl because I loved that side so much.

“I just want to know—are you rooting for me? Are you hoping I pull this off?"

Cath's eyes settled on his, tentatively, like they'd fly away if he moved.

She nodded her head.

The right side of his mouth pulled up.

The secondary characters were also written very well. I for some reason couldn't really get to love Wren because sometimes it felt like she was a bit irresponsible and unsisterly, but I liked reading about their bond as sisters. Her father was a tad ridiculous but very sweet and although the Avery family certainly did have their issues, they obviously loved each other. Reagan and Cath also had a friendship that I found hilarious and strangely refreshing. They were polar opposites yet they really understood each other. Levi was so sweet and so darn cute, I loved the guy. But I can't help think that he was almost too perfect?

Fangirl isn't just a pretty cover it's a story that aside from the romance also deals with mature topics such as growing up, self-confidence, alcohol abuse and mental illness. From page one I was entertained and captivated. There's just something about the writing style of Rainbow Rowell that makes everything so easy flowing - making Fangirl such a fun, heart-warming and addictive read. I can honestly say I'll read anything by her because her writing is comforting, magical, and oh so real!

My only main concern with Fangirl was much like my problem with E&P and that was the ending. I feel as though it wasn't nesacarily unresolved but in some ways it wasn't resolved. It wrapped things up nicely but it also sort of just happened. I didn't think I was turning the last page until I turned it, if you know what I mean. I feel as though it was satisfying but also maybe missing something. What? I couldn't exactly pin-point. Overall aside from that missing something, I really enjoyed this read. It's such a fun, real and quirky contemporary that people have loved and I am sure will continue to.

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  1. This sounds so good! I've seen so many glowing reviews for this. There's a Rainbow Rowell Read-a-Thon in December, so I'm going to be reading it soon! I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it.

    Great review, Sunny. :-)

  2. Oh Sunny I have heard so many awesome things about this book, I'm glad to hear you really enjoyed it! The characterisation sounds spot on but shame the ending didn't tie up nicely. Sounds like Rainbow Rowell does that on purpose. I can't wait to read my copy!
    BTW all good on your commenting duties, comment whenever you feel the need to :) I know how much time it takes!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  3. I enjoyed Rowell's Attachments and really want to read Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, as I've heard they are even better! Lovely review :)

  4. Ooooh I've heard a lot of brilliant things about this one… I WANT! I WANT!

    I agree about the ending of E&P and that's probably why I preferred Attachments... the ending is quite satisfying for that one. :)

  5. I absolutely loved this book. Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic writer. Great dialogue, interesting characters, and the book just made me smile. College can be a difficult time for some students, especially the beginning, and the author definitely captured some realistic moments of college life in this book. Not knowing where to go, not feeling that comfortable with dorm life, your roommate, etc.

    Cath was a unique character, and I did like her, although she frustrated me a lot of the time (Just go to the dining hall already!) And the fact that she was in college but really had no desire to meet new people and didn't even seem that interested in her classes. All she wanted to do was write fan fiction. But I still liked her.

    Levi...oh Levi. I loved him, then I was quite mad at him, then I was hopeful again. He was what Cath needed. I could just picture him smiling all the time. Wren was such a great character, and Reagan as well, I sort of wish we had some chapters from their POVs. My only complaint is that the MC (and Wren) were portrayed as such extremes. If you don't drink or party, you're practically a shut in and if you do drink and party, you're basically an alcoholic. There is a happy medium to college life that's barely portrayed (although you get the sense that Levi, Reagan, and Jandro fall into that category).

    Glad you really enjoyed the book! I agree with you that Rainbow Rowell is fantastic when it comes to writing characters, I think that's her biggest strength. I don't know, Levi wasn't perfect, he did make some mistakes (one in particular that made me mad). Great review! ~Pam

  6. OOOOh so close to 5 stars..
    I've heard many great things about this book and i really want to read it, I have to admit the title is what drew my attention...

  7. I read Fangirl a couple weeks ago...LOVED it! Great review!

  8. Fantastic review, Sunny! I agreed with you in everything in your review. Rowell wrote her characters wonderfully, from Cath to the secondary characters (LOVE the quote you put in!). Sure, her anxiety may have been annoying in parts, but I enjoyed it because in other parts, it resembled so much like me! I'll have to read E&P asap as well as Attachments!

  9. I love Rainbow Rowell's writing. Her endings, I think, give the readers free reign to imagine what happens next. Terrific review!

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