Review: Fangirl

Review: FangirlTitle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, New Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars

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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

my thoughts

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is exactly what a New Adult book should be like. Honestly, the reason I have such issues with NA is that it focuses (almost) always on two characters who both experienced something horrible and deal with that by having lots of sex. Now, I am not judging those characters (or the authors who wrote those stories), but it’s not something I can relate to. Ever since leaving high school I’ve been a bit – well, confused, really. Leaving the familiar was pretty hard for me, and that is exactly what Cath goes through in this book. While I don’t relate to Cath in every way, there are things we have in common, and that’s why Fangirl, for me, is a much more accurate representation of a college experience.

In Fangirl we follow Cath, introvert, fanfiction writer, dedicated Simon Snow fan, to college. Having to leave the familiar of her old life and “losing” her built-in best friend, twin sister Wren, who refuses to room with her, is hard on her. Not shy exactly but anti-social, Cath fears new experiences and rather stays in her room writing about her favorite characters. The thing is that Cath and I are different, but especially the last thing is something we have in common (she came dangerously close to me at times). I talked before about how being able to relate to a character is one of my favorite things in books, and that is why Fangirl is a definitely favorite of mine. It’s a shame that a character like Cath is such a rarity in YA, because she’s so refreshingly real.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book was that the storytelling was different from other books I’ve read recently. Fangirl is a bit of a slow-burner at times, mostly because it’s not an action-packed story that has you pay attention because of the lots of twists and turns; rather, it’s a true to life experience of one girl’s first year of college. There is still a lot that happens, but it’s not presented to the reader with a bow and a tada, there’s your happily ever after. I loved this a lot. As for the side characters: like Cath, they’re not always likeable, but I really don’t care about that because in the end I was close to pumping my fist and scanting their names because they had grown on me and I adored them so much. My favorite is Raegan. I love that girl.

Okay, let’s talk about the fanfiction. I think this book is tricky for people who don’t have any experience with fandom because it’s such a secluded concept. If you’re not familiar with the way fandoms work, Cath will just seem crazy. I loved the concept of fandom in a book, because I use to read and write a lot myself. Of course, I wrote about Harry Potter, while Cath writes about Simon Snow (the equivalent of HP). But while I liked the concept of fanfiction in this book and I loved that Rowell created Simon Snow as sort of an inside joke for HP fans, the actual fanfiction in this book was hard for me to get through. There’s a passage between every chapter, and I couldn’t get into it at all.  I didn’t want to skip these parts either, but I still struggled with them.

I didn’t love Fangirl quite as much as I hoped I would, but I really did love it. Despite the fact that the fanfiction made me feel less connected, it’s a very solid story, and one I would love to read again. My feelings for this book are very similar to my feelings for Eleanor & Park, which is why Rainbow Rowell is now officially on my auto-buy list. Rowell has a way with words, but with characters even more. Her characters are unique and flawed and real and relatable and oh so likeable – they are alive. These is just something about these two books that speaks to me, which makes me incredibly excited for Attachments, which I fortunately already own. (Because have you seen that cover? Rainbow Rowell also gets the best covers ever!)

memorable quotes

“You’re not a book person. And now you’re not an Internet person. What does that leave you?”

“Of course he’s different from you. You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you – first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room…”

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

Judith is a 21 year old book blogger and reviewer, English student, part time magazine editor, compulsive book buyer, aspiring writer, proud book pusher, founder of Paper Riot and co-founder of the Recaptains. She is kind of addicted to Twitter. More?

18 Responses to “Review: Fangirl”

  1. Kim says:

    What you mentioned about NA books is exactly how I feel about them as well. I´m glad Fangirl portrays the college experience in a different way than those books, because I couldn’t relate to them either. I’m in college right now and have my issues, but I couldn’t relate to how characters in most NA books deal with their issues. I’m glad you enjoyed Fangirl and I’m very excited to read it. I have a feeling I’m going to like it a lot. A little worried about the fan fiction parts, though. Then again, hopefully it wouldn’t bother me too much because I used to write fan fiction myself.

    • Judith says:

      That is exactly my issue with NA, and that is why I love books like Fangirl and Just One Day by Gayle Forman so much. The fanfiction didn’t bother everyone, so I hope you’ll like it. Enjoy! :)

  2. Meg says:

    Yay! Glad you liked it! Rainbow Rowell’s officially an auto-buy for me as well.

    My favorite thing about all the Fangirl reviews is how everyone seems to have related to different pieces of Cath. It’s so amazing how Rainbow Rowell’s able to make her characters and books feel so personal (at least she does for me, idk)

    Reagan is the business. Also, I LOVE that happy endings quote. That whole conversation between Cath and Wren had me jumping around yelling “YES! YES! MORE WRITERS NEED TO CONSIDER THIS!”

    • Judith says:

      YES! So true. She’s a very realistic and relatable character. That’s what I love about Rainbow Rowell’s books. :) And I loved the end in general, haha. So good.

  3. I don’t read NA books for the same reason, so I’m happy that this book is different. It looks so adorable <3 being a fangirl (and I've written HP fanfiction myself too) makes me want to read this book even more. I think I will like Cath. I've heard mixed things about the excerpt from her fanfiction and I can't wait to see what side I'm on :)

    • Judith says:

      So I know you don’t read contemporary but I have a feeling you’ll adore this one, Mel. Cath is such a relatable character and the fanfiction is pretty fun. :)

  4. Lisa says:

    She seriously has some amazing covers. And they are all companions to each other! The best!

    I’m reading Fangirl right now actually, and while I am enjoying the little fan fiction or actual Simon Snow excerpts, I’m not quite sure how it ties into the rest of the narrative. I’m trying to see if it’s foreshadowing or something…but so far, no.

    Anyway, I’m right there with you in loving this sincere not-quite coming of age story but something along those lines. Things are happening without it being all ACTION and characters are developing without there being TWISTS and I really respect that.

    • Judith says:

      Wait, companions, really?! It’s been such a long time since I read Eleanor & Park, but now I want to reread, haha.

      That is exactly what caused me to dislike the fanfiction part. It just felt a bit… cluttered?

      Enjoy! :D

  5. I’m starting this one next for Cassie and Lauren’s Fall Into Reading feature! I hope I like it. I’ve heard nothing but good things and am super excited to read a NA that isn’t completely sex driven. Great review!

  6. I don’t even consider Fangirl NA because it’s not like all of those other NA books. I still consider it and others like it (without all the sex) YA.

    I haven’t found anyone who’s really cared for the fan fiction in the book. It’s hard to get into because we don’t know much about Simon Snow.

    • Judith says:

      NA really is just college age for me, and that’s what this is. But yeah, the setup is quite different from other NA books. See, I think the concept of fanfiction is great, but I just didn’t see how it fit into the story.

  7. Ah, NA. I try to avoid those as much as possible, because just like you said, it’s two people with problems who fall in love with each other or have to deal with sex. Not really my favorite topics.

    But Fangirl! I want to read it so I can actually see if she’s anything like me.

  8. Natalie says:

    That’s too bad that you didn’t like the Fanfiction parts in between. I’ve never read fan fiction myself but I loved how Rowell decided to include it in the book. I think it really helped the readers to look into Cath’s obsession and better understand it. I kind of fell in love with Baz a bit myself haha!

  9. Ellis says:

    I’m scared of this book. Everyone loves it and I’ve had some very unfortunate experiences with that. I’ve seen quotes here and there that I thought were hilarious but still. I’ve never been passionate about fandoms or fanfiction. Fandoms scare me too, haha. However, I’ve heard that the love interest is adorable and I already own this, so maybe I should stop doubting and just read it. Maybe. Anyway, great review!

  10. Fangirl IS what new adult should be. This is what I have been saying for ages. And yet it’s rarely labeled that way because there’s no sex. Totally a genre, not an age classification. *harrumphs*

    I stay in my room reading about my favorite characters. Does that count? Like Cath, leaving the room gets harder, the less I do it, but also the more I do it. If that makes sense. Balance is key.

    This is the sort of slow book I love, slow because it focuses on characters who I almost believe are walking around out there in the world.

    The fan fiction was a bit of an issue for me, especially since I’m supposed to believe a book SO MUCH like HP would achieve the same level of fandom in a world where HP exists.

  11. Estelle says:

    Oh Fangirl. I really liked this book. It reminded me so much of my first year at college, I was picturing Cath in my own dorm room on my old campus.

    Rowell is so good at making me feel so sad and then making me laugh. Laugh a lot. I guess the fan fic didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would? I kind of liked it. But I think reading it from the actual book and not a PDF would have enhanced that experience. I also just kept picturing Harry Potter haha.

    I think the only problem I had was the end. I think someone of her “stature” in the internet world would really have a harder time with the end (if that makes sense).

    Great review, as always!

  12. Kelly says:

    Great review of a book I have been dying to read!! i haven’t read any Rowell yet and I should probably be publicly shamed for it…lol. Commenting and also entering myself in your birthday giveaway ;)

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