Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Posted December 2, 2013 by Debby in Book Reviews

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow RowellFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 10th, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

4 Stars

If you’ve been around the reading community for the past 3-4 months, you’ll have heard about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It was inescapable. The hype was everywhere. Everyone was buying it. Everyone was reading it. Everyone was rating it 4-5 stars. Despite me having pre-ordered it, thanks to the wonderful (read: awful) service of the Book Depository, it took a month and a half before this book was finally in my hands. But off we went on this reading adventure.

As a bookworm, and a fangirl, it wasn’t hard at all to find a connection to Cath. I could see a lot of myself in her, including the introverted behavior and distancing oneself from others. Her love for the Simon Snow fandom reminded me of my younger years, obsessed with of course Harry Potter but also various anime and manga. Rainbow Rowell’s writing shone through and made her personality even more endearing. Truly, I get the fuss over Rainbow Rowell’s writing style now. I have given in to buying Attachments, and I have Eleanor & Park on my wishlist.

Anyway, the book is filled with cute, and if you don’t giggle or squee at certain points, well, you’re missing out. Levi is absolutely adorable. I loved that the romance part of this book wasn’t all head on, in your face, and obvious. No, I loved Levi from the first mention, but it wasn’t clear that he would be the love interest. His relationship with Cath develops at a snail’s pace, but that made it so much more heartfelt and realistic. For Cath, an introvert who is not used to letting people in, this was the only way to believably get her into a relationship. But oh how adorable were those two together? Serious, serious love.

I also want to praise the realism of not only the college setting (this is how to do New Adult, folks), but also the family dynamics. While the sisterly bickering did at times get a bit bothersome, I could see the realism in it as I also don’t have the best relationship with my sister. And analyzing the dynamic between twins? Definitely intriguing. But Cath’s relationship with her father was super endearing. I really loved how that element turned out. Family is important, guys, and I feel like in almost all the books I read it’s always about the mother needing help. Fatherly love ftw, okay? Okay.

I definitely enjoyed this book a whole, whole lot, but I felt a tiny bit let down at the end. Why? I didn’t feel like there had been enough change on Cath’s part. Like, I recognize the fact that at the end she has Levi, her sister, and Reagan (who is made of awesome, like seriously), but at the end she still kind of remains in her shell and her fandom world. I mean, I don’t think she should suddenly have transitioned into the most outgoing person in the world, but I definitely feel like there could have been more development there. The kind of contemporary that I love the most is the kind where there’s an overarching message that inspires me to make changes in my own life – or reflect on past decisions. I didn’t really have that with Fangirl like I did with Adorkable, Golden, Just One Day, This Song Will Save Your Life, etc., and that is ultimately the reason why this won’t be as high on my favorites list as those other ones.

And a final small complaint is that, after a while, the fanfiction excerpts or excerpts from the Simon Snow books between chapters became rather pointless. At first they were kind of fun, but the novelty wore off quickly. As they hardly added to the story, I considered skipping them. They weren’t that enjoyable.

Summing Up:

Fangirl is a book I’ll happily recommend to people looking for a light contemporary. The romance is so adorable, so even though the book was surprisingly long, I didn’t have any trouble getting through it. And for a primarily romance-focused book, that says a lot for me. Anyway, I hardly think that you need my recommendation to go and pick this book up, because it’s getting praise from all sides, but I’ll toss my hat in the ring as well. It’s a great read. Rainbow Rowell’s writing is fantastic. While it’s not an absolute favorite, it’s a book I’ll happily reread and call a Debby Book.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Introverted fangirls, which should mean all of you, right? 😉

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16 responses to “Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Yay! I really loved this one too. I didn’t have the same disappointment at the end as you did, but I did find the Simon Snow excerpts distracting after awhile. You would think that as someone who used to read (and write) a lot of fanfiction, I would have enjoyed them, but I found them to be distracting from the real story.

    I agree that it’s just filled with cute, basically. I LOVED the relationship between Cath and her father. It’s been just me and my dad since I was sixteen, so I could definitely relate to Cath. I worried about leaving my dad when I went off to college too. And Levi! He’s such a non-normal love interest but so sweet and the romantic development between him and Cath is just perfect.

    • Exactly! I love fanfiction too but this just felt meh. Maybe because it was trying to hard to be like Harry Potter but not be Harry Potter at the same time? I dunno. It was weird. Oh well.

      YAY to fatherly love! *high fives* and Levi is the best. I want a Levi. *pouts*

  2. I enjoyed this book too, but I have to admit, I did skip most of the Simon Snow stuff. I loved Levi and I loved Reagan, who was such a great roommate. And you’re right, I think Cath should have changed a bit more, but maybe that was the point, that she doesn’t have to change, that it’s ok to be an introvert (although I really was annoyed with her at times, I was like, go to the dining hall already!) I wish Cath and Wren hadn’t been so extreme in the opposite directions, but I guess Levi and Reagan were more in the middle. It just seemed like either you’re an introvert and you don’t go to any parties, never drink, etc. or you are constantly partying, getting drunk, and you’re practically an alcoholic. There’s definitely more of a happy medium to college life. I do enjoy Rainbow Rowell, I think she writes such complex and interesting characters so I’ll be reading whatever she writes next. Great review!

    • Yeah, I guess the polar opposites thing bothered me. Like, you can be an introvert but still be social with a few close ones. I dunno. I think I felt a bit let down because her introverted nature was so defined that I thought it was building to a confrontation and a change – and that didn’t really happen. But oh well. Still loved the story, though!

  3. I adored this book! I read it before Eleanor & Park (that I also absolutely adore and recommend you read ASAP) and I fell in love with everything! I’m not as much of a introvert as Cath is, but I’ve always been a fangirl and I loved the writing in the book, how the story progressed, Levi (even when I wanted to slap him), and even the fanfic excerpts, I must confess I was hoping for more reveals about the plot of what she was writing!
    Rainbow Rowell has become one of my insta-buy authors and I’ll probably preorder Landline any day now!

  4. I just adored this one because it was so ADORABLE. There were a lot of moments that made me smile or made me giggle with feels. But equally balanced out with other, more serious things too — which was great!

  5. While I was obviously all about the romance and the introvertedness of Cath, what totally sold me was the family dynamics. Fatherly love FTW indeed, yo!

  6. Ohhhh, the family part was just my favorite part of the story. I LOVED Cath’s relationship with her father, and I also loved the relationship between Cath and Wren. It’s interesting that you mention that Cath hadn’t *really* changed when the book ended because I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but it’s totally true. I’m slightly disappointed by that. And yeah, I didn’t like the fanfiction. I liked the IDEA of fanfiction and I liked the talking about fandoms parts, but the pieces between chapters were rather disconnected from the story, and I didn’t care for them at all. But yeah. I love Rainbow Rowell. She’s fab.

    • asdfjkl; Cath’s relationship with her father basically makes me miss my father terribly. BUT OKAY. I get to see him in a week. <3

      Glad I'm not alone in my critiques though. Everyone saying this was perfect? Meh. Don't have that feeling. Like, the feels weren't STRONG ENOUGH for me to ignore the lack of character development.

  7. What a lovely review. I really enjoyed this too. I also liked the love interest. It’s great that he’s a nice guy, but I particularly liked that he was imperfect – that he quasi cheated on her early in the story. Not that I condone what he did obviously but it added layers to his character that most authors never attempt.

  8. Let me begin by saying that I think we must be connected in some possible ways. Otherwise, how can I explain of our mutual liking (read: obsession) towards Rainbow Rowell & Stephanie Perkins? 😀

    I love this review of Fangirl! I lurrrrved this cute adorable romance between Levi & Cath. I was reading the book in a train, so I can imagine how many people who would have thought that I must be crazy snickering and swooning over a book.

    Thank you for great reviews girl! Looking forward for more!

    Love from Malaysia!