Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Here’s a secret: when I was 13, I wrote Naruto fanfiction. Even though it was pretty bad – and mildly inappropriate – one of my stories garnered over 600 reviews and hundreds of thousands of hits. Reading Fangirl flew me to my past life as an avid fanfic writer while reminding me of my present position as a college student.

Cath writes, reads, and breathes Simon Snow. She and her twin sister Wren own a plethora of Simon Snow paraphernalia, dress up as the characters at every movie premiere, and stalk forums in their free time. As they both head off to college, Wren changes: instead of rooming with Cath, she lives and parties and experiments with her new best friend Courtney. Cath, on the other hand, hides in the room she shares with her misanthropic roommate, struggles to deal with her fiction writing professor who does not appreciate fanfic, and faces boy issues. Real boy issues. Add on a host of problems with her parental units and Cath wonders whether she will survive her freshman year – especially when thousands of her online fans call for her to finish Carry On, her biggest story to date.

Rainbow Rowell writes from the perspective of a college student well. Whether Cath stayed in her dorm and ate peanut butter instead of going to a dining hall, stressed out about schoolwork, or dealt with men boy drama, I empathized with her. Her use of writing as an escape and as a connection to others spoke to me and solidified the quality of this book as a whole – Rowell crystallizes writing and reading as central themes in the story, an accomplishment for a novel with so many other plot lines.

Cath’s interpersonal crises developed her and the characters around her. Excluding a few side characters, Rowell included a dynamic, quirky cast in Fangirl. The family drama felt organic and the fanfiction snippets paralleled and supplemented the main story, though I can see why others were distracted by them. My only small complaint concerns the culmination of the various plot lines: for some reason, the book never appeared to reach a coherent climax. Some of the conflict resolution left a little more to be desired and a bit more development for certain characters – including Cath – would have increased the overall quality of the book.

Still, I would recommend Fangirl to anyone interested in fanfiction, college life, well-written contemporary YA fiction, etc. A little less superb than Eleanor & Park for me, but I know a bunch of people who loved it just as much as Rowell’s previous books, if not more.

*you can also check out my brief thoughts on A&P by John Updike and Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey here and here, respectively.


Filed under 4 stars, Book Reviews, Books

12 responses to “Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I actually liked this one more than Eleanor and Park, probably because I found myself relating so much to Cath. I was never a well-known writer or anything, but I wrote HP slash fiction all the time, and I avoided people and hung out in my room for most of my first year of college, so this was a really personal book for me. Although I agree with you that we could have used a bit more with the ending. We read so much of her fan fiction – I wanted to read the original story she eventually wrote!

    • I’m glad that you related to this book on a personal level, those are the books that we keep close to our heart. It would have been nice to read Cath’s original story, though I do think that Rowell included a short snippet at the end to exemplify her growth as a writer and as an individual. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • Meth Randall

      I’d have to agree with you that I too liked Fangirl more than E&P, because to me the characters are clearer in Fangirl; they’re stronger, and they are people that I find easy to relate to, with their own strengths and weaknesses and quirks and preferences, which really made them stand out. I didn’t get the romance in E&P but I got it in Fangirl. Overall reading E&P felt like looking through a foggy haze but Fangirl was as real as the kind of stories that did happen to University students.

      • Yes, I think Rowell does a great job of giving Cath a sympathetic voice in Fangirl and making it easy for readers to relate to her. Either way E&P and Fangirl are two different books and I’m glad you enjoyed this novel. (:

  2. I can’t wait to get into this one – there are precious few books about college experiences. I searched high and low but have only ever found a handful. I’ve also dabbled in fanfic writing myself, and the fact that the cover art is by a well-known fanart author makes me hope (maybe with expectations a little too high) that she handles the theme of being a fangirl/boy in a way that’s understandable and works to undermine the images of us as overly obsessed weirdos.

    • Ah yes, I forgot to include how Rowell does portray fanfic writers/readers in a positive way – she shows just like any other human, we have our strengths and out faults. I agree that there are few books that delve into the college experience, but hopefully this is just one of the many to come. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. I really wasn’t a fan of Eleanor & Park, so I picked up Fangirl with next to no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I agree it did have a few bumps in the road, which is why Attachments is my favorite Rowell novel to date, but I admired the fact that Rowell chose to write about an event as modern as fanfiction. I feel as if authors intentionally shy away from writing about modern issues, or, quite simply, they fail to touch upon these subjects with any form of depth and poise. Rowell really played homage to fanfiction, never belittling its content the way many often do, and I really loved that Cath was a character with such a multitude of passions from the beginning of the novel itself. Plus, the fact that family never left Cath behind, even when she was in college, isn’t a theme we see often in New Adult. It’s usually all about the romance but Rowell managed to include a variety of issues. (And that romance was just SWOON!) Wonderful review, Thomas – I’m glad you enjoyed this one and thought Cath’s perspective was an authentic portrayal of college life. 🙂

    • I agree, Rowell does capture how the life of a college student is multifaceted and can be filled with academic stress, boy problems, and family issues. You’ve persuaded me to pick up Attachments, it looks like such a different and interesting adult fiction novel. Thank you for reading and commenting, Keertana!

  4. Isa

    That’s pretty cool that you wrote Naruto fanfiction. Fanfic has definitely opened my eyes to so many different worlds, characters and writing. I loved Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell writes very natural, relatable characters and I really liked the way she wrote about Cath’s college experience. I got way too invested in Simon/Baz fanfic by the end of Fangirl, I was actually searching up fanfiction about them. I can’t wait for Landline, Rainbow Rowell has definitely become one of my favourite authors.

    • It’s great that fanfiction has played such a prominent part in your life, and I’m happy that you were able to relate to this book in a positive way. If only Simon and Baz were to actually exist – the convincing quality of the excerpts in this book made them feel so real. Anyway, I look forward to Landline as well, and thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. Now, this was really helpful for me, thanks!
    I put this book on my ‘to read’ list simply because of the title. I consider myself a fangirl, but seems like I am not THAT huge of a fangirl. From what I read, I can’t see myself relate to her. I would end dropping it.
    Once again, thanks for the review!

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