Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 438
Genre: NA, contemporary
Series? No
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Synopsis from Goodreads: A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, 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, 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 fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

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The Dinghy

Fangirl is an inspiring, touching, and captivating story that details the beautiful journey of Cath as she experiences freshman year, the end of a beloved series, and social anxiety. Written in the most respectful way I’ve seen fandom presented, Rowell has truly become an author I admire and respect. Whether or not you can identify with Cath regarding fandom and fan fiction, I still highly recommend the story!

The Yacht

Before I go any further, I want to start with this: Rainbow Rowell has given me hope for the new adult genre. I know Fangirl is usually qualified as YA, but I’d argue that it’s truly NA (and I know several others would as well!) due to the age of the characters and the college setting. BUT – get this – the focus isn’t on sex! Can I get a hallelujah?? So that’s why I gave it the NA classification up at the top. Also: there is romance, but since I feel that Cath’s personal growth is the true center of the story, I hesitate to label it as a romance book, per se. So there you have it! Argue as you will.

Another note before I get into my review: Veronica, my BFF, partner in crime, sister unicorn, my love and my life (okay that may have gone a bit too far) – thank you for gifting me with this special, incredible book. And for knowing my habits and knowing that even though I would wait months to read it, that it would be the perfect book for me when I was ready. And finally, thank you for realizing that I was creepily similar to Cath and being my Reagan ❤

So now that I’ve gotten all that out, allow me to sum up everything into one sentence: Fangirl is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. And honestly, Rainbow Rowell has landed in the same ranks as JK Rowling for me – for several reasons, which I’ll detail below. It won’t be everyone’s favorite, and not everyone will be able to connect to it as easily as others, but for someone who is so attached to books and fandom and fanfiction (like me, and thousands of other girls everywhere), this is something very, very special. I don’t want to get into any details, because this is a book everyone should experience for the first time on their own, without being spoiled, so I’ll stick to some general points I’d like to make.

1) The way Rowell treats the entire fandom aspect is incredibly respectful. In movies, books, and tv, fangirls usually end up being the creepy, crazy, disconnected from reality characters that serve as the butt of a million rude jokes. But in Fangirl, Rowell actually treats fandom as something legitimate, and not as a joke at all. She realizes that for people like Cath, fandom is a huge part of our lives, and our passion, just as others have passions about sports or healthy eating – fandom is more unconventional, but it doesn’t mean it’s strange or unlovable at all.

2) The way Rowell approaches Cath’s anxiety – which is probably at the level where it could be diagnosed as GAD and treated with medication. Again – respectful. It isn’t a “this stupid girl she just needs to get over herself” approach; it’s a “this is Cath’s reality, and while it’s unhealthy, it’s not something she’ll get over because someone told her to.” And coming from that second mindset, Rowell gives the most inspiring journey towards recovery that I’ve read in a long time. I loved the slow unfolding of Cath’s struggles, and the steady progression towards healthiness.

3) Simon Snow is clearly a Harry Potter type fandom, with some minor differences. But whether it’s called Simon Snow or Harry Potter, Rowell captured the heartbreaking, world-stopping, best-moment-of-my-life feeling that comes with the ending of a beloved series. Which leads me to my last point…

4) I mentioned above that Rowell is now on the same page as Rowling for me. Here’s my reason why: I have never felt so understood by a book since Harry Potter. Harry Potter gave me an escape as a kid (and as a teen, and even into my years as a young adult), and I felt like I fit in with the story and it inspired me in so many ways that we would be here forever if I listed them. The same goes for Fangirl. It’s like Rowell has said, “Here, I understand, and I want to validate you and your passion as real and healthy and not unlovable in any way.” If HP and Fangirl were people, they would be those bright sunshiny faces that wrap you in their arms and hold you when you’re at your best, worst, and everything in between. And no book since HP has made me want to say “Thank you” to an author – the kind of thank you that means so much more than those two words, a thank you that tries to express everything you can’t find the words for. But now my list of “authors I want to meet so I can say ‘Thank you'” has just increased by one.

I know I’ve rambled on extensively, but this is actually an edited version – I could talk about this book for HOURS! Tl;dr version – read the book. Even if it’s to understand a fangirl you know, or to feel understood as a fangirl yourself, read it! And now, in true fangirl fashion, allow me to leave you with a gif that sums up my emotions:

My Final Rating:

Anchors Aweigh

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22 thoughts on “Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I’ve been hesitant to try Rainbow Rowell because of the hype surrounding her books, but this sounds like something I would be able to either really appreciate, and possible even love! I love that you’ve described it as NA, even though romance isn’t a huge theme, because I think we need more NA like that! For that alone, I’m tempted to give this one a shot 🙂

    • I was hesitant too, which was why I had Eleanor & Park sitting on my shelves for months before I even got Fangirl. But I truly recommend her books – it seems that she lives up to the hype for once 😀

  2. I agree with the NA part, but it can certainly be read by YA people too, and I think the magic of it is that both are acceptable.

    And oh, as much as I love Cath, I loved Levi even more. Can we get a whole encyclopedia about Levi? PLEASE I NEED MORE LEVI

  3. I wouldn’t call Fangirl a romance either. It’s a contemporary that happens to have some romance in it lol.
    Btw, how jarring was it when Harry Potter was mentioned in the book! I thought that Simon Snow was like their world’s replacement of Harry Potter, but then HP was mentioned and I was like…but then, does no-one like HP in that world?! What da heck? haha

    Also is it just me, or have all the smileys changed on WP. They’ve become more…friendly looking? dunno haha

  4. I haven’t read Fangirl yet but you make me want to really read it. I’m sort of sick of what’s been going on on NA books lately, they’re just sex and sex and cheessy lines. *sigh* I’m not really generalizing but *sighs* Anyway, I can’t wait to read this book!! 😀

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  6. Even though we don’t totally have the same opinions about this book, I’m really glad that you liked it 🙂 And I agree that she did a great job being super respectful when it came to both fanfiction and anxiety. I didn’t really notice that while I was reading, but I think that it’s a very good point, now that you’ve brought it up.

    I also agree that it’s 100% NA…which makes me really happy! I’m excited for how the NA genre is going to grow and change within the next couple years. I’m really hoping for more NA books in this vein.

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  8. You made a lot of good points Kayla. I also agree that this is NA. And a really good one at that. I like how it doesn’t follow all those other trends. And I also liked the point you made in #2. I hasn’t realized it until you mentioned it, but it’s so true that Rowell wrote it so well. There are times with some books that I would get annoyed or frustrated by the characters. But Cath was so likable. Or maybe she’s just my kind of people. I’m not really sure. 😛

I'd love to hear from you! Comment below and we can fangirl, rant, or cry over whatever it is that strikes our fancy. I truly appreciate each and every comment, and I'd love to chat!

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