Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rowell - Fangirl

Published: St. Martin’s Press, 2013
Genre: YA Romance

My rating: 4/5 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? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?” (Goodreads)

I read the companion novel, Carry On, last winter and absolutely adored it. I’ve been meaning to read Fangirl for the longest time, and finally snagged one from a lil local bookstore.                                                                 

I also absolutely adored this. While there were some things that were strange or unrealistic, I had a great time reading it and it brought me out of a semester-long reading slump. As someone who has a tough time letting go of nostalgic things, I thought this was a great read. Plus, it was nice to finally read about a protagonist who is in college.

I loved Cath, even though she annoyed me at times. At first, I thought her anxious reactions to certain situation were over-reactions, but the further I read, the more they made sense. I can’t really talk about my favorite elements of Cath without talking about my favorite moment and biggest disappointment in the book, so I’ll steer clear of those. But Cath is one of the few characters I’ve read in a long time who reminds me of myself, and that felt good.

As far as the setting, most of this novel takes place on a college campus or at Cath’s house. The description of the college, I felt, was a bit bare bones. I would have liked to have been able to fully imagine things like their dorm room and dining hall, but I felt like I was just taking specific details Rowell mentioned and combining them with the familiarity of my own university. Regardless, I had a good feel for the environment. It was very warm – that’s the best way I can think of to describe it.

There were some elements of the plot that I found unrealistic. Some of them ended up making more sense later, such as Cath’s overwhelming fear of the dining hall. Others, though, made a little less sense. I wondered where, in her first year of college, her homework was? It’s usually mentioned briefly – she was studying for a bio class once, or something like that. But I wish I had gotten more of Cath dealing with her first year of college and not just her fiction-writing class and her roommate and her boyfriend. I know that ‘social’ is important to college, but so is the other stuff, and I think that seeing someone with anxiety deal with those things more than just in passing would have been, at the very least, more realistic. Regardless, I loved seeing her relationships with her roommate, Reagan, and her boyfriend, Levi evolve over the course of the novel. Similarly, I loved the up and down of her relationship with her sister, and how they’re so different from each other (as siblings, even twins, are). I loved their dynamic, and that, throughout everything, they didn’t change for one another. Their differences stayed differences (specifically Cath deciding not to change her mind about something I won’t spoil but was so proud of) and learn to overcome those differences.

I also wanted to quickly mention the twins’ relationship with their mom. Look, I won’t lie – I hated her. But, as a person who has a strained relationship with both parents, it was wonderful to see that there are two sides to go about it – Cath chooses one and Wren chooses the other – and neither are wrong.

This is the fourth Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, so it’s no secret that I love her work. I feel like Rowell’s books are great transitions between reading middle grade and young adult.

Some quotes:
“Cath liked to worry. It made her feel proactive, even when she was totally helpless.”

“Part of her set the whole world on fire just to watch it burn.”

“Just…isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”

Recommend for fans of: Sarah Dessen, John Green

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks

Find more reviews here!

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