Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

September 6, 2013 4 - 4.5 Stars, College Life, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Ooh La La Romance, Rainbow Rowell, Substance Abuse 10 ★★★★½

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 10, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 433
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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?
You don’t have to have a twin sister to feel Cath’s pain when, during their freshman year at the same college, her twin, Wren, makes it clear she wants a separate identity from Cath.  Wren wants a college experience of new friends, guys, parties, and maybe a little bit of school.  Parties and meeting new people make Cath anxious, so the sisters quickly go their separate ways.  Cath is hurt, but she accepts Wren’s decision.  Wren settles easily into college life with her new friends, and the relationship between the two sisters becomes more distant and strained.  Cath has no interest in making new friends, and she refuses to interact unless absolutely necessary.

Cath’s creative outlet is writing fanfiction.  She’s built a large and following of her work, and she is committed to her readers.  I’ve never had any interest in reading fanfiction, and I still don’t, but Fangirl helped me to understand the culture and the passion for a particular work that drives people to write it.  In particular, I understood exactly why it was so meaningful to Cath.

Many people will relate to Cath and/or Wren, and I’m no different.  For my freshman year of college, I went to school on the other side of the country, at a huge university where I knew no one, and I was desperately lonely.  Like Cath, I hid in my room, I avoided interacting with anyone, and I was suspicious of anyone who tried.  I transferred to a university back in my hometown for my sophomore year, joined a sorority, and then I turned into a Wren.  (Guess which experience of mine resulted in better grades?)

Fangirl is filled with uniquely fascinating characters.  Even though I was less than halfway finished reading this book at the time, Cath’s brusque, abrasive roommate, Reagan, made my list of Top Ten Secondary Characters.  I was worried someone would reply. “Wait a minute!  Reagan is an evil serial killer!”  I’m happy to say my instincts were right, because Reagan remained true, supportive, and funny as hell.  Something in Cath cracked Reagan’s tough shell, and she was determined to drag Cath out of her own shell, even if kicking and screaming were involved.  Likewise, Cath draws out a caring side of Reagan that I’m not even sure Reagan knew existed.

I was all set for a love triangle between Cath, Levi (Reagan’s long-time friend), and Nick (Cath’s fiction writing classmate.)  I firmly positioned myself as Team Levi.  This guy is always smiling, always gracious, and he actually said, “Fuck you, Flowers In the Attic.”  (It’s helpful to appreciate the comment if you’ve read the insane book that I read in my childhood, Flowers In the Attic, but trust me: it’s funny.)  But it soon became clear that there is no love triangle.  It’s all Levi, and it was just perfect.  Rowell’s writing is so wonderful that she didn’t need any extra drama from a forced love triangle.  It’s obvious how much Levi cares about Cath, but she’s afraid to fully trust him.  Somewhat surprisingly (and definitely refreshingly), Levi is not the “traditional” type of hot we often find in books.  I’ll say it again: He’s perfect.

What’s NOT perfect is just about everything else in Cath’s life: problems in one of her classes, continued strain with Wren, and issues with both parents.  Cath is not without flaws, and stubbornness is one that tends to cause her problems.  As painful as Wren’s rejection was (that’s how Cath initially viewed it), without it, I don’t think Cath would have had any relationships like the ones with Levi and Reagan.  These two really helped Cath to grow and become more confident, and without them, she would have continued living in Wren’s shadow.

Rowell writes so perfectly of these imperfect people.  They’re not trying to save the world from an apocalypse; they’re just trying to make life a little better for themselves.  Through her writing and her characters, Rowell gives us everything we need to feel support and compassion for Cath and her loved ones.

Note – I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review posted at Goodreads.


10 Responses to “Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell”

  1. Nikki

    I haven’t read anything by Rowell yet but I think after seeing all the positive buzz, I need to get on it, like, STAT! One of the things that undoubtedly makes a book better for me is the growth and relatability of a character and it sounds like Rowell’s do all of those things. I ADORE a fundamentally flawed MC because, in real life, nobody is perfect. I think I just may have to make Fangirl my Rainbow Rowell first!

    • Stephanie K

      I can’t wait to read E&P now. It’s sitting on my bookshelf!

      I’m not sure that Cath is someone I’d want to be friends with (she’s got some unpleasant traits I recognize in myself), but I so enjoyed reading her story.

  2. Greg

    Very nice review, I’m looking forward to this one after all the buzz and your review definetly reinforced that. I read the excerpt at amazon and was impressed. Laughed out loud at several lines so I think this wil be really good!

  3. Robyn Jones

    Wow, this is such a great review. I had no idea what fanfiction was until I started blogging. I had to look it up. This story sounds so tied up with family and holding on to the past, and then throw in college, boys, classes, your world being blown away by new experiences. I really want to read this one, especially with the mention of humor. I just added it to my TBR shelf. Thanks, Stephanie!

  4. Bookworm1858

    I’ve been pleased to see so much love for Reagan. I wasn’t sure how her abrasiveness would read to others but she is definitely one of my favorite secondary characters too!

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