Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Fangirl

By Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 10, 2013

From the author the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park

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?

My review:

I loved Eleanor and Park and when I found out that Rainbow Rowell had a new YA novel coming out this fall I knew I had to read it. Fangirl is not like Eleanor and Park but I liked it anyway.

Cath and her sister Wren are going off to college which is a difficult transition on its own. What makes it harder for Cath is that her sister has chosen this time to find her own identity-apart from Cath. This leaves the introverted Cath in a bind. She survives by turning to what has always helped her during troubled times: Simon Snow. A series similar to Harry Potter, the Simon Snow books inspired Cath so much that she started writing Simon Snow fan fiction and even has a huge online following under her online identity, Magicath. 

I found it really easy to relate to Cath. She lives in a very internal world, afraid to connect with others because she doesn't want to be hurt and left again. She is afraid to put herself out there preferring to hide out in her dorm room and live off of protein bars because she hasn't found the dining commons yet (and doesn't want to go there by herself anyway). Cath derives a lot of comfort from the Simon Snow world and engaging with fellow fans. It is kind of sad that her main connection to people is online. Thankfully people at her school do try to reach out to her.

Cath's roommate Reagan is at first unwelcoming but slowly she decides to take Cath on as a project and they develop an unlikely and grudging friendship. There is also Levi, who persists in befriending Cath even when she does her best to discourage him. Levi is wonderful and sometimes Cath does not deserve such loyalty but he keeps trying. Levi and Reagan are my favorite characters aside from Cath and I love how they let her be herself while encouraging her to grow and expand her horizons at the same time.

Wren is difficult to like at times. While I get that she'd want her own identity and college can be the perfect time to reinvent yourself, Wren treats Cath horribly. Sometimes I just wanted to reach into the book and smack her. Cath tries to be a good sister to Wren and is looking out for her even when Wren doesn't want it. Both girls are still dealing with the mess made by their mom's abandonment and their dad's mental fragility but they do it in different ways. Cath locks herself away while Wren becomes a party girl. Although I didn't like Wren for much of the book, I was glad to see them find a way back to each other. I love when books explore sibling and family relationships with their complications and ups and downs.

There is a love interest for Cath and I won't spoil it by saying who it is (though I think it is obvious from the synopsis) and I loved the slow development of the romance and how it doesn't overshadow everything else in the book. I enjoyed the romance but my favorite part of this book was watching Cath grow and mature and work on her relationships.

Something else I must mention is the Simon Snow fan fiction. Rainbow Rowell actually writes little short stories and excerpts of Cath's fan fiction stories and they were really fun to read. I haven't read much fan fiction but I almost wish I could read Cath's stories. Her excitement over the real Simon Snow novels and the release of the final book reminded me of my own excitement over the Harry Potter books and the publication of  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

Overall I thought this was a fantastic YA contemporary novel that looks at the first year of the college experience through a memorable protagonist. It is an exciting, scary, and confusing time in a young adult's life and I think Rainbow Rowell really captures it perfectly.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes from Edelweiss and the publisher


  1. I thought Reagan was really awesome! I was surprised by how drawn I felt to her bluntness and confidence. I'm now wondering if my sister, who is a sophomore in college, would like to check this out and see how it compares to her experiences last year.

  2. I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I can't wait to read it! I have Eleanor and Park from the library, and I'm really looking forward to starting it as well. :) So glad you enjoyed this book!

  3. I was originally going to pass on this since there is a lot of hype and I usually like to dig in before I hear too much, but I may have to read this one. Thanks for the great review.
    -Dilettantish Reader


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