Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Reading Level: New Adult
Pages: 405 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
From the author the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park

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?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is my first Rainbow Rowell book and I loved it to death--so much so that it nearly left me breathless. It was very easy to immerse myself in Cath's world. And while, at times, this was a pitiful world with a huge lack of friends, the few characters that appeared in this book made it one of my most beloved worlds ever. Really, I couldn't have asked for a story that is easier for some college students to relate to. And, damn it if I don't have all of Rowell's other books on my wishlist.

I consider myself an extroverted introvert. If you put me in a situation with people that I'm comfortable with or in a discussion centering around a topic that I feel very strongly about, I can't shut up. But if you put me in a new situation or give me some alone time in my room, I become extremely introverted. For a while, it's just me and my laptop and my books. And because of this it was very easy to relate to Cath, unfortunate fully named Cather. I think that fellow introverts of all ages can agree that the similarities between us and her are plentiful. And while I hope my upcoming college experience does not mirror hers that much, I know that, at times, I'm just going to want to be left alone to read and do my own thing instead of going out to parties every weekend like her twin, Wren. It's who I am. While I am a sociable person, I don't want to be sociable all the time. But, in all actuality, I will never be as anti-sociable as Cath.

See, Cath fears rejection and being wrong, so she tends to stay with what she knows and shy away from the new. Her fear runs so deep that she spends a solid chunk of the beginning of the school year eating energy bars and peanut butter in her room to avoid the cafeteria. It's that bad, which is why it's hard to fully relate to her though you can skim the surface of her overall experiences and emotions. What she knows is Simon Snow and Put these two together and she has a loyal hoard of thousands of followers that adore her slash fanfiction that's slowly taken over her life. Her fear of reality is cemented by the fact that her fictional world is so widely adored. To her, it's better than real life, so it pretty much rules her life and even puts her beloved scholarship in jeopardy. And it calls her originality and creativity into question during her beloved fiction-writing class.

Speaking of Simon Snow, I did have a slight issue with it. More of a small annoyance than anything else. This was so obviously a re-created Harry Potter. I understand that you can't have Harry Potter in this world because of trademarks and copyrights and such, but there was a legitimate Harry Potter mention in passing. Why even bring HP into a story whose overall purpose and fanfiction is a knock-off HP series? In the end, they're incomparable and it's way too easy to draw connections between the two. Don't put them both in the same world because of the similarities. While, overall, I chose to ignore this minor nuisance, I just thought that this was something small worth addressing. Every new chapter begins with a snippet of fanfiction, so there's no escaping it. With that being said, let's continue.

Obviously, I adored Cath. And because there are so few characters in this book it is a very character driven book. While it is easy to adore Cath, it's easy to dislike other characters, especially her sister, Wren. I understand Wren's desire to be separated from Cath since they were a known duo in high school. She wants to be Wren. Not Wren of Cath and Wren (literally two halves of a whole because Cather + Wren = Catherine). But the way she went about such things was terrible. Not only was she partying so much that she nearly risked her life, but she cut Cath out of her life completely. She pretty much made Cath feel like shit and she hurt her several times. I really hated her for a solid chunk of this book. However, everyone finds themselves throughout their college experience and I began accepting her again near the end of her character arc. While I feel like Cath was too forgiving of her built-in best friend several times throughout the book, I think Wren deserved forgiveness near the end of the book. And it's really great to watch a character arc where the character learns so greatly from her mistakes.

In contrast to Wren, there's nothing but great adoration for Cath's elder roommate, Reagan and her boyfriend, Levi. Reagan is not likabe at first. She's very sarcastic but sure of herself. As you can guess, this is a great contrast to Cath's personality. Eventually, she takes Cath under her wing when she realizes that she's Cath's only chance at getting out of her room for something aside from classes and they develop this beautifully unique friendship that I adored every minute of. Reagan is blunt, honest, and cool, and she's exactly what Cath needed in her life. In truth, she's the one who kick-started Cath's journey to self-discovery and transformation into enjoying reality and, for that, Reagan will always be loved. Levi is also integral to Cath's transformation and it's great to have a guy, not only that but an older guy, accept her quirks and immense love of fanfiction. It shows that you can find companions in the oddest of places. One plot point in regards to Levi that I'd love cleared up is his inability to read. He explained it in this huge emotional freak out about how he can't compute when reading--the words that he reads don't have any actual meaning to him which is why he must be read to or listen to lectures. He's an amazing listener. I think he's dyslexic. I'd rather that be cleared up because, as a reader, it's hard for me to imagine someone who can't understand what they're reading.

I want to take a moment to talk about this romance because it was perfect. It was slow-going and it took over one hundred pages to even figure out who it was with. No names will be mentioned because it's part of the experience, but this romance can seriously only be described as perfection. It was slow-going and there were several bumps along the way, but the characters came out of everything hand-in-hand with the promise of greatness in their future. This was love that had to blossom over time instead of instantly. In reality, it took months for this to happen because it's a slow burning candle that eventually ignites into an all-out beautiful fire. And it made the characters tug your heart strings every which way because of it.

One other huge plot point in this book was family issues. Cath and Wren's mother left when the were eight, so there's almost a type of abandonment issue there. Cath can't even fathom welcoming their mother back into their lives and it blows her mind that Wren is even considering it. But the biggest family issues in this book evolved around their father. He has this light in his eyes in regards to his obsessive workload for his advertisement company and sometimes this light goes out. When this light goes out he tends to lose it and find himself in a hospital for those who have trouble keeping their minds because he has insane manic depression. He loses himself, and it's scary for his kids. Despite the fact that Art is an amazing single father that loves his daughters more than life itself, it's a constant struggle for him to beat his problems and it's even harder for Cath and Wren to watch him suffer knowing that they can't help him when they're away.

Overall, this book brings together a plethora of struggles and depicts the story about how even the presumably weakest can come out of any tragedy strong as long as she has the best type of friends backing her up and a love of something to focus her. Everyone needs their escape, and that's emphasized in this book. And it made me love this book even more.

But I must say I'm dissatisfied with the ending. I got so attached to these characters, so immensely attached, that I wasn't ready to say good-bye. I have a few more questions and I want to see the way several relationships play out. And while I don't want this being a series, I almost feel as if I need a companion novel of some sort to truly satisfy me and my infinite wants, desires, and questions in regards to one of my favorite casts of characters ever. While it's so huge to make me love these characters the way I do, the downside is that my inability to say goodbye makes the ending just short of perfection. Because, in my eyes, the rest of this novel is perfection in its purest form.

Rainbow Rowell truly is a must read author. And this is a new adult book for the ages. It's all plot and story, no unnecessary drama or sex. In other words, it's the way a coming of age story should be written. And, boy, do I love a proper coming of age story.

4.5 stars


FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation in any form in return for my honest review.


  1. I absolutely loved this book! Awesome Review!!

  2. This is one of my favorite slow building romances. It really was perfect. :)

  3. This book looks cute :) I'll have to keep my eye out for it!

  4. This spammer is on ALL of your posts. RUDE.

    Oh, that's exactly what I'm like, Lili. Put me in a group of bloggers and start a conversation, and I will like dominate the conversation. Put me in a party of people who are not obsessed with the same thing and I will hide in the corner and wait for it to end. My advice for college would be to put yourself out there a lot at the beginning, because you form a network, and then to be you. At least, that's what I did and I think it worked. If, like Cath, you start out withdrawn, it's even harder to come out of your shell lately, and people will have already made their groups.

    YES. Love this paragraph on the fear of reality. She's basically afraid of everything, because the fictional world is so much MORE. That's why I suck at romantic relationships. WHY IS THIS NOT MAGICAL LIKE EVERY BOOK COUPLE? WHYYYYY?

    Seriously, what's with the HP reference? I had a whole rant about that.

    I think it would be REALLY cool to have a book from Wren's perspective to see like where her head was (and get more of Cath and Levi in the background)

    God, the romance. MY FEELS. CANNOT. BE. OVERSTATED.

    Worst thing about this book was that it did not go on forever.