Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Release Date:
September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Netgalley


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? (courtesy of Goodreads.)


There are basic formulas for writing a fantastic book. Certain plot lines, specific character types, a map towards romance... As readers, we all say that we don't like reading overplayed tropes, but oftentimes, they really work. But no matter how well you follow the Awesome Book Formula, it is almost impossible to consciously create the "It" Factor. Neither an author nor a reviewer can adequately describe "It." "It" is an intangible quality that takes a book from great to truly special. The best image I can think of is a warm, buzzing feeling.

Fangirl has "It."

That's all you need to know. Now go read it.

While that is all you need to know, of course it's not all I'm going to say. Why use three words when you can use 800? Fangirl is about so many things. Coming of age. Starting college. Changing sibling relationship. Family drama. Friendship. Romance. Rainbow Rowell covers the gamut of young adult experience, but it never feels like she's just putting checkmarks on a list. Fangirl forms a complex, seamless whole.

Cather* is one of the most memorable main characters I've read in a long time. Unlike her twin sister Wren who dives headfirst into the college experience, Cather is terrified. She doesn't think she's ready for college. She's not ready for change of any sort. Over the course of the book, I kept thinking that Cather may not have been emotionally ready for college, but she *needed* it to grow up.

Fangirl is the only book I've ever read to delve deeply into fanfiction - the experience of writing it and the passions it can evoke. The book is interspersed with excerpts from the fictionalized Simon Snow books as well as Cather's fanfiction. The Simon Snow books are a hilariously bad take-off on Harry Potter (although Harry Potter might seem just as ridiculous taken out of context). Through Cather's love for fanfiction and the difference it makes in her life, Fangirl legitimizes fanfiction.

Romance is a part of Fangirl in the sense that it's a part of life. This is not a romance-centric novel, which I liked. It's a segment of Cather's life. Levi is a wonderful, quirky, sweet guy who you'll learn to love. He's an anti-hero of sorts, because he makes mistakes that most love interests do not. He is very human.

This is not always a fun book to read. Cather's life is not all bunnies and roses. In fact, it's sheer misery for much of the book. Cather is awkward, anti-social, shy, depressed, terrified, sad, and many other negative emotions for much of this book. She sees the world through gray colored glasses and it looks like it's falling to pieces around her.

Fangirl is difficult to review. It's a wonderfully written, well-rounded look at a beautiful, damaged girl's life. Thinking back on it doesn't fill me with the surface-level giddiness that I often get from books I enjoy. Rather, it brings to mind the deep sometimes bittersweet feelings of a book that has etched itself permanently into my soul.

*Cather goes by Cath, but I love the name Cather so much that I refer to her that way. She's named after the author Willa Cather. It's pronounced Cath-er not, Cay-ther (I tweeted Rainbow to ask). Turns out I've been mispronouncing Willa Cather's name for years.

Rating: 5 / 5

Here's How to Buy the Book! 


  1. Lovely review, Alison! I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of this at BEA but I have been saving it, but now I think I should just read it because I really need a good book right about now!

    I like that this is NA-ish without being like all the other NA out there, and that it's about sisters. Also, I like her name too, v.unique!

    In reply to your Q about the Dad in HiSaSW, I think he was v.realistic!

  2. I loved this book and I think your review is spot on. I think I really connected with Cath because she reminded me of how I felt when I went off to college. That whole hiding out in the dorm and subsisting on protein bars is kind of what I did when I went to grad school!

    I haven't read fan fiction but I really liked how much it meant to Cath and how it was incorporated into the story. Both the stories written by Cath and the sections written by "Gemma T. Leslie" were entertaining to read. The whole thing kind of played off of the Harry Potter fandom and how people felt so strongly about the books. Reminded me of what it was like to wait eagerly for the new release.

    I agree with you that Cath and her story are memorable and will stick with the reader long after they've finished the book.

  3. By the way, I loved this line of your review: "Over the course of the book, I kept thinking that Cather may not have been emotionally ready for college, but she *needed* it to grow up."

    I think that is so true and I wonder if there are other teens who felt that way about college too. Maybe reading a book like this might help them...

  4. LOVED THIS BOOK! Every time I read a review of it, I want to read it again, especially considering I read it before BEA because I just couldn't wait for it. That's enough months between reads, don't you think?

  5. I think this ended up being my least favorite of Rowell's books (though still worthy of a 5 rating)-something about it just didn't quite click like E&P and Attachments did for me. I did like Levi a lot:)

  6. Fangirl was such an amazing book one of the best contemporary books I have read in a long time!

  7. So glad you enjoyed this book. I just read Eleanor & Parker and OMG , my heart! I'm so adding this book to my list.

  8. I’ll definitely be looking out for this when it’s released, it sounds amazing!! Thanks for the great review! :)


  9. I can't wait to read Fangirl! It sounds amazing, and it's good to hear that Cath is a memorable character. I like the fact that Levi is very human as well - real people make mistakes, so characters should too! Great review, thanks :).

  10. I can't wait to read this now!! From what you write it sounds really good, and I love flawed characters. Glad to hear you enjoyed it :)

  11. I am so freaking excited for this book! I was so bummed I missed it at BEA, and then a shiny copy arrived in the mail for me that might have made me giggle like a school girl.

    All these glowing reviews make me so very anxious to dive into this myself!

  12. I've been really looking forward to this book. I know I can relate to the main character's obsession with a fandom, and Rainbow is always worth reading. This review has made me way more excited to read the book. Great review!

  13. I'm jealous! I so wanna read this one. I've loved everything Rainbow Rowell has written prior to this. I'm hoping to get my hands on this one soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  14. I'm glad you liked it! I'm excited to read it

  15. I've yet to read any of Rainbow's books, but I love how this book addresses the wide range of emotions we all go through at that vulnerable time of our lives. I also think it's pretty cool that the book addresses fanfiction which is something that I still don't really understand.

  16. haha, you're right - that really is all I need to know! Because it's that feeling you describe that always sells it to me. I can't wait to read a book about fanfiction as it was a such a huge part of my life for years! I love the name Cather, too.

  17. AH!!!! YES Alison, wasn't this book fanatstic and amazing and everything?? This book was definitely one my my top 5 books this year and I wish I could reread it and experience everything again. Such wonderful characters and the romance and everything.. swoon!

  18. "Fangirl has "It."

    That's all you need to know. Now go read it. "

    Haha. Yes, so true! You know, I actually didn't like Cather's name. All I could think of was catheters, which isn't something I really want to think about when I think of a favorite character. But Cath is a favorite character, big time.

    I loved Fangirl so much. Rainbow Rowell is one of my all time favorite writers, and I just discovered her in the spring.

  19. Oh, I am so excited for this book ! I'm glad you liked it, Alison. It's funny every review I've seen I always assumed Cath was short for Catherine.

  20. Wow - what a review! I just read Eleanor & Park and am hold for Fangirl at my library. After reading your review, can't wait to read it!!

  21. ANOTHER glowing review for Fangirl. I'm almost afraid to read it now lol I hope I love it too. *bites nails*

  22. The more I read about this book the more I'm dying to read it! Especially since I used to read and write fan fiction back in high school, think it'll bring up a few crazy memories for me.


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