Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on September 10, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, 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 fanfiction, 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 that 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 fanfiction 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?
I was very excited to read Fangirl after hearing so many wonderful reviews of it. I’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s two adult novels, and really enjoyed them. I had a feeling Fangirl would be another great book. The story follows Cath, an introverted teenager who is starting her first year at college. Cath hoped she could experience her first year with her identical twin sister, Wren, but Wren wanted to do her own thing. This leaves Cath alone in her dorm room, afraid to even leave to find the cafeteria. Cath spends her time writing fanfiction for the beloved Simon Snow book series, which is comparable to Harry Potter.
I had some trouble getting into Fangirl at the beginning. I had flashbacks to my freshman year of college, which was a very difficult time in my life as well. I could relate to Cath even though she is a very extreme version of who I was in college. I was rooting for her from the start!
The characters in Fangirl are my absolute favorite part of the novel. There is family drama, love interests, surprising friendships, and more. I love that Rowell writes characters that struggle with real-life issues that are often not represented in young adult literature. For example, Cath’s father has bipolar disorder, a mental illness that takes a toll on his entire family. In addition, Cath’s identical twin Wren goes the ‘typical’ college student route, and begins non-stop partying. It is so refreshing to have such distinct and well-developed characters in this book.
That being said, I did have a few issues with Fangirl. First, I didn’t really get the whole Simon Snow thing. In between each chapter there is an excerpt from either a Simon Snow novel or Cath’s fanfiction based on Simon Snow. I really didn’t like those excerpts, mainly because I couldn’t connect them to what was going on in Fangirl, and there wasn’t enough for me to form a full picture of the Simon Snow world. While I thought it was great that Cath was so into fanfiction, I didn’t enjoy when she read portions of her work out loud for several pages.
Moreover, my biggest issue with Fangirl is with the ending (or lack thereof). I won’t spoil you in this review, but suffice it to say I was very frustrated with how this book came to a close. Cath’s first semester of college is drawn out and fully explored, and then her second is rushed. In addition, there are so many unanswered questions. Readers don’t get to find out if Cath finished her fanfiction in the timeframe she wanted, or what happens to a lot of the characters. It really bummed me out that the book ended this way, because there is so much about Fangirl that I really loved, but I had a sour taste in my mouth as I closed the book. It seems that Rowell loves to leave her readers unsatisfied.
All in all, I did enjoy the journey of reading Fangirl, and I can see why so many people love the book. I ended up giving this book a four star rating, even though it probably is more of a three because of the ending. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book if you are the shy one. Cath’s story is very relatable, and I can see it comforting many who may feel alone whether at college or at any other stage in life. Of course, if you enjoy young adult contemporary and a good love story, this is a great option. I look forward to picking up Carry On, Cath’s fanfiction that is now its own fantasy novel, at some point very soon.
BUY THE BOOK
When you buy a book through the Amazon or Book Depository links above, I earn a small commission through each website’s affiliate program. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information.