Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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 Rating: 5 cupcakes

Fangirl is one of those books that sounded so brilliant that I knew I had to read it immediately. You see, I’m a fangirl. Fictional characters and the actors who portray them have ruined my life on many occasions. Like Cath, I used to read and write fanfiction stories, and had many awkward moments in high school when my best friend and I were caught writing slash fics in the middle of French class (the fics weren’t actually in French, though; we weren’t quite that talented). My high school teachers held Harry Potter themed dinners where my classmates and I would dress up like the characters before attending the movie premieres, and I’d line up for hours whenever a new Harry Potter book was released. While I’m not very active in the fandom anymore, it was responsible for giving me the courage to actually put my writing out there for people to read, and it’s so neat to see that people actually “get” how wonderful these communities can be.

Anyways, this is what a New Adult book should look like. It perfectly describes how going to college involves a transition from the familiar to the unknown, and how it can be difficult to take in all at once. Not everything can be found on Google, as Cath explains, and there are so many potential sources of social anxiety – like what to do at the cafeteria once you’ve finally found it. There were so many things that reminded me of my first year: the dorm rooms that don’t seem large enough to house two people, the awkward silences before the first lecture, and the nicknames for people around campus (Cath and Regan have Wolf Girl and Venezuelan Lindsay Lohan, we have Cape Girl and Thor Girl).

Our protagonist, Cath, was quite easy to love and sympathize with. She’s an introvert who is uncomfortable in social situations, and who would much rather inhabit the world of Simon Snow. Writing is Cath’s preferred form of self-expression, and I loved how her fanfiction stories – which were interspersed between chapters of Fangirl – mirrored what was happening in her life at the present time. As the story unfolds, Cath becomes more independent, builds new relationships, and gets a better idea of who she is, and it’s beautiful to watch.

Fangirl also showcases Rowell’s ability to create the cutest, most swoonworthy romances ever. The relationship between Cath and Levi is slow to build, starting as friends who exchange witty banter and growing into something more. And Levi! That boy is someone I would love to date. He’s always smiling, genuinely charming, and would do anything to help someone out, whether it’s walking them home from the library at midnight or driving them to a bar to help their drunk sister. He and Cath are virtually polar opposites, yet their relationship dynamic works so well. It’s comfortable, comforting, and just so sweet.

While the romance was definitely important, familial relationships also play a pivotal role in Fangirl. Cath’s father is dealing with manic depression, her mother has been out of the picture for years, and her sister has left the world of Simon Snow in favour of bars and boys. These struggles are heartbreaking at times, but so realistic, and it’s so nice to see characters who are genuinely close with their families; after all, family is important.

Overall, Fangirl is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s character-driven, filled with adorable romance, and is incredibly easy to relate to. It’s safe to say that this has solidified Rainbow Rowell’s position on my “automatically-buy” list, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

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