Thursday, 19 September 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (review)

Levi is a Nebraska farm boy so he wears a lot of plaid. Swoon. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 - Really highly recommended
Source: Bought the eBook from Amazon Kindle

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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?

Find out why I gave Fangirl 4.5 after the cut!

You know you love a book when as soon as you finish you want to start reading from the beginning again. That happened to me with Fangirl, in fact, by the time you read this I’ll probably be half way through it.

It’s difficult for me to identify what I loved so much about Fangirl, just that from page 1 onwards I felt like I was fully immersed in Cath’s story, her adjustment to college (or University this side of the pond), and her relationships with the people around her. Cath is a prickly character, she finds trusting and getting to know people difficult and I wondered if some people might find her frustrating. For some reason this was never the case for me; although the pace of the novel was slow, I liked that you were able to see Cath develop as a person at her own pace, witnessing her setbacks and her triumphs in equal measure. Also, there was never a big event or magic wand that made her into a ‘normal’ person, instead she just came to accept herself for who she was.

I loved the secondary characters too. Reagan, Cath’s roommate, armed with sarcasm 24/7, but fiercely loyal was beautifully drawn, but Levi just had to be my favourite. Rowell describes, through Cath’s eyes, the way he smiles at everyone and everything, which Cath finds both fascinating and bewildering, and by the end of the book I felt like I could picture his smile perfectly.

The book is peppered with fanfiction and fake excerpts from a fictional literary phenomenon about a wizard named Simon Snow, Cath’s obsession since her childhood, an obsession she used to share with her twin sister Wren. Wren has moved on, tried to embrace College life, whereas Cath finds herself still burrowed in her virtual world, especially since she is writing a fanfiction epic called Carry On, Simon, read by thousands of people. Simon Snow is I guess a stand-in for Harry Potter, and I liked how Rowell didn’t shy away from creating a whole other world of novels with her excerpts of the books. At the same time, on re-reading I think I would skip those parts, and if you don’t find them particularly engaging, you could skip them first time around too and not miss anything. I’ve read some other reviews that queried why Cath was so obsessed with Simon Snow, suggesting that it was never really explained. For me though, Simon Snow felt like a convenient way for Cath to escape the real world. When the series began, in Cath’s childhood, she was going through a really difficult time, and so Simon Snow, and the internet community around it, gave her an instant way to avoid her real problems and focus on something else. It wasn’t so much the beauty and brilliance of the stories themselves, more what they represented in her life - safety, security, a place to test out her passion for writing - that made her love them so much. Whilst fandom might seem like a niche interest for some people, I think we can all identify with the impulse to escape and see the world through somebody else’s eyes, it’s just some of us go deeper in than others.

In Fangirl, Rowell has created beautiful, multi-faceted characters who grow and change throughout the novel. Although the subject matter might at first seem difficult to identify with, I think everyone will find something to love in this novel.

So what do you think of Fangirl? Did you love it? Or was Cath’s fanfiction obsession too much for you? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I never questioned her reasons for being obsessed with Simon Snow, actually I really understand. I don't write like that, but even just posting regularly on my blog and then reading comments is kind of similar. So I totally get it! As you already know, I just adored this book as well! It's definitely one I'll be rereading!

  2. Loved this book. It was just completely charming. And I think that everyone is a fan of something or someone and can relate. Great review :)
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics