Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


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?

___________________________________

I’ve heard, repeatedly, that Rainbow Rowell’s writing has a magical quality, so I knew I needed to read one of her novels. So, when the opportunity arose to read Fangirl, I had high expectations, but that ended up totally fine because I loved this book to pieces.

If you looked next to the definition of introvert in the dictionary, you might see a picture of Fangirl‘s main character, Cath. In real life, Cath is quiet, solitary, and anxious when it comes to interacting with others. Which makes her first semester at university especially difficult: she’s far from her dad, who she worries about constantly, her twin sister wants to branch out and begin her own, independent life, her new roommate might hate her, and her roommate’s boyfriend is entirely too chatty for loner Cath. To add to the overwhelming mess of college, Cath has some very unique commitments: she’s a Simon Snow fangirl. In fact, she’s so committed to the Simon Snow books that she writes them… well, versions of them. Cath is well known – and widely read – in the Simon Snow world and, with the release of the final book approaching, she’s under more pressure than ever to finish her version of Simon’s story as well. Cath has to figure out how to balance her relationships and responsibilities, how to leave the safe warmth of her comfort zone, and, ultimately, embrace happiness.

For me, the most amazing aspect of Fangirl was how completely I was able to relate to the characters and actually picture the events as they happened. I think this was partially from having gone to university and having felt just as lost as Cath at the beginning Everything that happened in the book, whether it ever actually happened to me personally, felt achingly familiar. There is an honesty about Rowell’s writing that allows for this sense of connection. Fangirl is a perfect example of a book that let’s readers know they’re not alone, that someone else out there in the world has experienced the same feelings and made it through the same situations.

I loved Cath’s writing professor. In my experience, it isn’t often that students run across professors that take such an interest in their students, who really care whether they succeed and embrace their potential, but it’s those professors who make the college experience really worth it. I appreciated the professor’s part in Cath’s story; she was a valuable source of direction and encouragement in the sea of overwhelming newness that is the first year of college.

It was also refreshing to see Cath have such a close relationship with her family. Her father, in particular, was an interesting character. Often, in YA, the reader only sees bits of the parent(s), but I felt like I really got to know Cath’s father. Cath’s mother is an entirely different story, having left the family when Cath was quite young, we are only able to see flashes of her, memories and quick images as she tries to salvage a relationship with the twins after years of absence. What struck me, however, about Rowell’s portrayal of Cath’s parents, is that they are neither good nor bad. They are just people with flaws and quirks and twin daughters. Again, the honesty of Rowell’s writing asserts itself.

Cath’s college experience is like that of many young adults, so the premise of Fangirl is by no means new and shiny, but Cath – and the way she thinks and sees the world – makes the premise feel new again. Cath messes up, she makes unexpected new friends, faces challenges, and falls for a boy. She must admit to her mistakes, open up to her new friends, find the strength tackle new situations, and the bravery to love a boy.

Read Fangirl, whether you already love Rowell’s writing or have only heard good things about it. And be prepared to fall in love with the raw honesty you’ll find within these pages.
St. Martin’s Griffin, September 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:9781250030955, 405 pgs.
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7 thoughts on “Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I definitely qualify as one of those people who has heard good things about Rowell's writing but has yet to experience it him/herself. At a certain point, I decided that I wanted Fangirl to be my introduction to Rowell's works, and I'm definitely sticking with that. This sounds like such an interesting and unique book – and I love the focus on fanfiction. And of course I love books where I can really relate to the characters. Great review!

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