Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Posted April 23, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow RowellFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Genres: Fiction
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on September 10, 2013
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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?

Also by this author: Landline

A novel of fanfic and dysfunction.

My Take
This is not your usual novel with a misunderstood young woman who is all sweetness and light. Instead, Cath is the shy twin with an almost pathological fear of new, of people, of change. She likes her routine and engages with people through the fanfiction she writes.

She’s both likable and not. She’s practically agoraphobic and lives on her protein bars and peanut butter to avoid going to the cafeteria. You can hear the teen inside her when she gets excited about the hero of the fantasy series she reads—think Harry Potter-like but with a vampire, and I love the real world quality of her homelife. Her dad is dysfunctional as all get out. We never do learn if mom’s leaving caused her dad’s problems or if it was the spark that brought it to the fore or if was the reason for her going.

The story is not about the mom and dad, but about fanfiction and Cath. Her inner fears and dreams, her worries and hopes. And all with that underlying need to write. Along with her desire to be with Levi and the bond she has with her twin.

I do love Levi. He is so understanding and so understated. What a great guy! The kind we’d all love to meet. Then there’s Reagan, LOL. She is so not your usual roommate. And a good thing for Cath! So much better than Courtney was for Wren. Cute reason for the twins’ name, er, names!

Reading of Cath’s writer’s block was very real as well. I loved hearing her concerns with how her story was developing. Her thoughts about how she’d love to be able to go back and change things. Why it’s better to write the whole book before letting it loose into the world.

It was confusing to read the excerpts from the Simon Snow story. I had no idea why they were appearing at first; it took awhile before it sank in, and I’m still somewhat confused about those.

There are a few rough patches in here, which could be due to its being a YA novel and my not understanding what’s happening. The majority of it is simply well-written and Rowell uses words very well — you won’t be disappointed. Anyone who likes to read or write will enjoy this, as it’s too easy to identify with Cath on a number of levels.

The ending was good. It could have, it should have, felt flat, but it felt right with a sense that Cath’s world would continue.

The Story
It’s that first scene when Cath is moving into her dorm that sets the tone throughout. Fear. Not knowing how the world works and terrified to find out as Cath wonders just who, or what, her roommate is.

And that’s what college is for Cath. New experiences that leave her wondering: the writing partner, talking to people in classes, unwillingly making friends, worrying about her twin and her dad, her mother returning for grace, and obsessing about the final installment in the fantasy series that has consumed her and Wren’s lives.

It’s her fanfiction persona that rules over it all, insisting she finish her version before the original author finishes the series.

The Characters
The naive and innocent Cather (call me “Cath“!) is leaving home, Omaha, for the first time to attend college, and she’s terrified. Magicath is her fanfic persona when she’s writing the Carry On, Simon stories. Wren, the older and bolder twin, is excited to leave home and her twin behind — she’s insisted on NOT rooming together. You can imagine how this affects our shyer twin! Art Avery is their bipolar dad who is brilliant in advertising. Laura is their re-emerging mother. Abel is the boy who would do.

Levi is one of Reagan’s boys and studying range management. An ex who still loves her, but finds a new sun around which to orbit. He’s easygoing, patient, and wants everyone to be happy. Reagan is Cath’s roommate, a force of nature with a string of boys attending her. An unhappy one as she didn’t want a roommate!

The clueless Courtney is Wren’s roommate; Jandro becomes her boyfriend. Jesse is her high school boyfriend.

Simon Snow is the hero of a fantasy series written by Gemma T. Leslie whose final story is coming at the end of the school year. Baz Pitch is the enemy ( and hated roommate) Cath wants him to befriend. Agatha Wellbelove is the witch everyone loves. Watford is the Hogwarts of Simon’s world. The Mage appears to be the Headmaster. Penelope is Simon’s closest friend.

Pound Hall is the co-ed dorm where Cath is plunked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; I think Schramm is Wren’s dorm. Selleck Hall seems to be the cafeteria? Professor Piper is an author and the teacher of Cath’s favorite class, an advanced writing course, Fiction-Writing. I love that first class when the professor asks why we write. The answers from everyone — Cath and her fellow students — were fab. I think Cath could use her own answers to start that short story she needs for her final. Nick is a fellow student who partners up with Cath to write their homework.

Kelly is her dad’s boss. St. Richard’s is a hospital for mental and behavioral health.

The Cover
The cover is a flat, pastel green with a grayed coral used in the title. And it’s perfect. It’s Cath perched on the “a”, typing away on her laptop writing “a novel” while Levi tries to get her attention. Too bad for him that she’s dreaming of Baz and Simon…!

The title is perfect, for Cath is THE Fangirl with her whole world revolving around Simon and Baz.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I have heard amazing things about this and I am glad you liked it. I have it on my TBR and I will be sure to pick it up soon! 🙂

    I love the mix of characters and the sound of the fanfic! 🙂

    Great review + have a great weekend since it is incoming! 🙂 xxx

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

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