Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (imprint of Macmillan)
Genre: young adult/new adult, contemporary romance, college fic
Format/Source: hardcover, borrowed from the library
Status: standalone

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?

It seems there are decidedly two camps when it comes to Fangirl: those who can't relate to the story and give it low marks and those who have found themselves among the pages and relate on a deeply personal level. I am a member of the second camp. I am a fangirl. I am a fangirl OF Fangirl, if you want to get a little meta up in here. I was introduced to the world of fanfiction when I was a child. My aunt is a fangirl at heart and changes her favorite movie/actor/tv show every few seasons, but for the longest while, her obsession was The X-Files. She wrote lots of fics for it and shared them with me. I remember thinking her stories were the real deal (aka canon) and got confused when I watched the show. I was reintroduced to the world of fanfiction as a freshman in college when I made friends in the dorm. I was my friend's beta & proofreader for a good while. I even wrote a fic for Vampire Academy. I kind of love that story, and those of you who wish to read it could probably find it quite easily, but I won't lead you right to it. My point is, I went through a lot of Cath's experiences, and that's one of the reasons I adore Fangirl so darn much.

There are so many ways in which Cath was me in my freshman year of college. I didn't have a car. I spent much of my time in my room. I felt awkward going to the dining hall alone (although I had no problem using the "extra dollars" on my meal plan to grab fast food from on-campus restaurants and taking it home). Cath does all these things and more that immediately endeared her to me. Cath is shy and a loner and more comfortable with the voices and people inside her head than the people outside it and even her own voice. Her struggle with recognizing and learning her voice is poignant. I loved that she let herself grow. I know it was tough for her to accept Reagan's offer of friendship and Levi's constant help. I also have difficult time accepting what I consider charity, but it's okay to let others help you when you need it. Even when you don't think you do. Sure, I thought Cath was obnoxious and oblivious and just downright dumb sometimes, but then, I loved her flaws, and I could relate to them.

As for our supporting characters, of course I loved Levi. There is no way someone can possibly tell me there is anything not to love about him. He's charming, he's funny, and he's a total gentleman. The moments in the bar during Wren's "911" were some of my absolute favorites. I love that he's unafraid of being chivalrous. It's like women get offended by a guy being a good guy and thus, we teach guys to be totally thoughtless to the point of being douchebags. Ladies, lemme give you some advice real quick: if a man ever holds the door open for you or offers to carry something for you, LET. HIM. DO. IT. Don't get your panties in a twist. Don't go off on some crazed diatribe about The Man keeping you down and how you're are strong woman, hear you roar blah blah blah. When you make scenes like that, again, you are training guys to not bother to be kind to you. Men don't offer their services if it will put them out. *coughs* Ahem. Back to Levi. He's an evolved, thoughtful man who clearly appreciates all the intricacies of women, yet he has flaws, which makes him likeable. I also really enjoyed Reagan, although I didn't expect to. She was a complete surprise to me! I thought she'd be typical hostile roommate, but I loved the mentor role she appointed herself when she determined Cath needed a guardian. She's honest, brutally so, but she's also fair. Reagan is one of those true tell-it-like-it-is girls, but she isn't cruel about it. I think she provided the integral supportive female character and was also a good contrast to both Cath and Wren.

Wren, on the other hand, really upset me. I went into the first few pages more on her side than Cath's. I'm sure after 18 years together, Wren was desperate to be her Own Person, and I thought she deserved that. Cath was sooo clingy, which was not a trait of hers I admired so I understood Wren's need to be around different people. However, I hated the cruelty with which Wren came to treat Cath. Granted, most of those moments were aided and abetted by Wren's thirsty little habit, but I do not consider alcohol a valid excuse to treat someone, anyone, but especially one's twin sister with derision and just plain meanness. It took me a good while to trust Wren after all the times she belittled Cath. Nick was another character I didn't like. I noticed immediately in their encounters that Cath was choosing a more supportive role. I saw the end result coming like a freight train, which made it all the worse when it actually hit. All I can say is, homeboy got his. I like that Rainbow got in this small side-plot about plagiarism as it is sadly still a relevant issue (though why that is, I can't say).

I really enjoyed the format of the book. The chapter breaks with bits from both the "actual" Simon Snow novels as well as Cath's/Cath&Wren's fics were such a delightful extra. I never read many slash fics, but the fact that that was the genre Cath chose to write had me in fits. Because, really, what's nerdier and often more intense than writing fanfiction? Going outside canon and writing fics with a slash OTP, of course! I'm sure this was another manner in which Levi could prove how okay he is with Cath's chosen pasttime, but I think it was mostly for the impact of biggest nerdy vice ever. I thought it was really important that Rainbow did include both the real novels and the girls' fanfiction (both together and Cath's solitary fics) because I did understand Cath's Simon obsession a bit more as well SimonxBaz. Not gonna lie, there were moments when I wanted the novels and the fics to be 100% real. I think reading them would be a blast!

Fangirl is a really fun novel that strikes a chord with the fangirl inside me. It brought back so many memories of my own time in college, but it also made me think deeply of the way I imagine and dream of my favorite authors, books, and characters. You'll find yourself laughing one moment, crying the next and pondering the one after. Fangirl has struck several nerves, but in a way that is understanding, accepting. Rainbow's writing has only gotten better with each novel, and I can't wait to read the next!

Favorite scene: Reading The Outsiders, of course!

Favorite quote: From the laundry basket scene, page 309 in the hardcover. After my rant, is it any question why?

"You're making me feel fragile and limp. Give me the laundry." She reached for it.

He stepped back. "Cather. I know you're capable of carrying this. But I'm not capabled of letting you. I literally couldn't walk next to you empty-handed. It's nothing personal; I'd do this for anyone with two X chromosomes."

"Even worse."

"Why? Why is that worse? That I'm respectful to women."

"It's not respectful, it's undermining. Respect our strength."

"I do." His hair fell in his eyes, and he tried to blow it away. "Being chivalrous is respectful. Women have been oppressed and persecuted since the beginning of time. If I can make their lives easier with my superior upper-body strength, I'm going to. At ever opportunity."

Recommended for: Anyone who has ever squeed or fangirled/fanboyed or rabidly read spoilers OR rabidly avoided them for one fandom or another.
Not recommended for: Anyone who doesn't understand why people get caught up in fads, particularly where tv shows, movies, or books are involved

Book Links:

About the Author:
Rainbow Rowell is the author of Attachments. She has two novels coming out in 2013: Eleanor & Park in February and Fangirl in the fall.

Rainbow lives with her husband and two sons in Omaha, Nebraska. Right at this moment, she is probably arguing with someone about something that doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things -- or trying to figure out how Sherlock faked his death.

Author Links:


  1. I have definitely been a fangirl in the past, and probably will be again! Lol! I think I would relate to this story!

    1. Then you should enjoy it! Let me know when you read it, Susan!

  2. This book was such a breath of fresh air for me :D absolutely loved it!

    1. I agree, absolutely. I've had a series of enjoyable books, but none had given me a WOW factor in a while. Fangirl definitely did that.

  3. I love Rainbow Rowell! Fangirl made me love her even more now. And in some way, I could relate to Cath. LOVED this book. ;)

  4. I've been meaning to read this books since I'm so sure i could relate to the main character haha cant wait to go pick this up!

  5. Wow, this book sounds so good!
    Awesome review, btw! :)

  6. I've read Fangirl, and it's definitely one of my favourite books. Your review described all the feels perfectly.

  7. I LOVED this book so much! I could relate to a lot of it, which is what made me love it even more. Such a huge fan of Rainbow's!

  8. This was one of my favorite books I read in 2013. I can't say it was my ABSOLUTE favorite, because I can't decide between it and the other Rainbow Rowell book published this year, Eleanor & Park.

    I related to Cath like WHOA. Instead of having scenes of intense emotion that had me sobbing as E&P did, Fangirl affected me the entire time I was reading. I felt like I was vibrating with emotion. It was just amazing.

  9. I really loved Fangirl; it gave me a good idea of what to do and what not to do in college.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I liked Fangirl, but I didn't connect with it like other readers did. It's good, but I liked Eleanor and Park better. Oh well, ship me off to the Island of Misfit Toys. :)

  12. I need to pick up a copy and re-read this book after your review! I've gotten into fanfics more recently so maybe the book will resonate with me on new ways! Also my IG is @nitashas