213 of 229 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2013
So, you're burnt out on the New Adult genre.
You've read 30.5 books this year about fictional girls having the same college experience, like they are in some sort of perverted episode of the Twilight Zone. They have all been raped, abused, or raised by wealthy parents who do not care about them and keep them from the one they love, but its ok because after one roll in the hay with the reformed bad boy, these girls have life figured out. They get over their past, they stand up to their parents, they pass the test and save the day.
And you're just over it.
Yeah? Me too.
And that is probably why I loved Fangirl and Cath so much. Because her college experience did not read like a Teen Harlequin novel. It read like my life.
"Look at you. You've got your s*** together, you're not scared of anything. I'm scared of everything. And I'm crazy. Like maybe you think I'm a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I'm a complete disaster." -- Cath, to her roomate Raegan
I loved that the angst in it was so subtle and yet I kept having these little electric waves of emotion roll through my chest on Cath's behalf: as she's navigating her classes... as she feels betrayed when her identical twin doesn't want to be her roommate and finds a new best friend... as she's struggling to feel comfortable in her own dorm room because she's living with a fairly intimidating (yet ultimately awesome) upperclassman named Reagan... as she reluctantly begins to interact with other people and learns the hard way that some can be trusted and some are just using you to get ahead... as she falls in love for the first time. All of the tension in this book felt authentic and not overdone, not over-the-top, and yet left my heart a little bruised. Because this is the angst that real people experience their freshman year of college, and I saw myself in it.
With that being said, I'm not kidding when I tell you Cath is the opposite of the typical NA heroine. She's awkward and has a bad case of social anxiety and is more firmly planted in her internet reality than actual reality; but she is also endearing and smart and Rainbow Rowell helps us understand her.
I've never written fanfiction, or read fanfiction, or even really been aware that fanfiction existed, but the point of the book was not to make me a fanfiction groupie. The point was to show the journey of one girl's first year in college, and that girl happened to be an incredibly talented writer of fanfiction. Cath writes slash fiction about Simon & Baz, who are the main characters in a Harry Potterish series, and there is quite a bit of talk about her fanfic throughout the book. Even though I can't identify with that personally, it didn't turn me off like I expected it to. Throughout the course of the book it even grew on me because Cath was growing on me, and I cared about her. Also, her roommate was there for comic relief and to say the things that most of us would be thinking if we were actually interacting with Cath.
Quotes from her roommate Reagan:
"What do you mean when you write them? No, you know what? Nevermind. I don't want to know. It's already hard enough to make eye contact with you."
"You're just so helpless sometimes. It's like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box."
Cath is sometimes frustrating because you want to rush her, to force her to make the right decisions and to stop pushing people away. But that's why this is a coming-of-age tale and not a romance, although the love story in it gave me a true case of "the feels." It was well done, sweetly and slowly built, and even though it wasn't totally believable (he was almost too perfect) I was rooting for both of them. My cheeks hurt from smiling during their interactions and when it finally happened I felt a little giddy.
If you're looking for a steamy romance with a first-person POV, this isn't your book. It's extremely chaste. But if you love character-driven stories with humor, realistic dialogue, and a sweet love story, this is one of my favorites from 2013. This is truly the story of a girl who is coming of age, who is a young adult-- someone on "adulthood probation."
I loved tagging along for her journey.
**Just a side note: If you're not loving the fan fiction parts, you can skim them or skip them without getting lost in the story. I did that a few times and it was no big deal, although that is what kept me from giving it five stars.**
66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2013
The book description was intriguing, but I was not prepared for how much I would love reading Fangirl. It is one of those rare stories that just made me smile, when I wasn't marveling at how well the author gets it.
Cath is starting college at the University of Nebraska, but she's not your typical freshman. She's nerdy and awkward and comes with bucketloads of social anxiety, and she'd much rather stay in her dorm room writing fanfiction than get drunk at a frat party. She's always depended on her twin sister for her social life, but Wren wants to have the hard-partying college experience and has refused to room with Cath, who gets stuck with an intimidating older student. Many of the elements here are common to coming-of-age stories--there's first love and family drama--but Fangirl is also about writing, and being a fan, and it encapsulates the experience of being a social misfit in college. Or at least, one experience of it: having a lot in common with Cath, I had to reconcile myself early on to the fact that there are differences (major differences) between her freshman experience and mine--but those are details; on an emotional level I found this story to be real and true.
This is a character-driven book, so I'll start with the characters. Cath is fantastically-realized, quirky, and fun, and there's so much that I love about Rowell's portrayal of her, but here's the most important thing: it's okay to be like Cath. Cath has a lot going for her--she's smart, witty, loyal and caring--and growing up means growing in her own direction, learning to handle new relationships and thrive in a new environment, not changing who she is. Cath doesn't get a makeover or become a wild child or give up fanfiction. She's a nerd, without having to be either the genius type or a super-sexy babe. And she's completely believable; even where I would have had the opposite reaction, her feelings and behavior always rang true to her character.
But the other characters are great too, wholly authentic and often endearing. The book is largely driven by dialogue, and while Rowell's prose is nothing special, the dialogue sparkles. It brings the characters to life and it's often humorous, but it's also so exactly the way people talk to one another, I think I've had some of these conversations. The romance is genuinely sweet, with characters who seem like a good fit for one another, and I loved that Cath's hangups about physical affection don't just disappear once she's in a relationship; it's something she has to work on.
Then too, the book is a celebration of the intense relationships we develop with fictional characters and worlds. Cath is a fan of Simon Snow, a stand-in for Harry Potter: and she's a big-name fan, with thousands of people following her writing. I loved the way Cath's writing is treated: it's taken seriously, as a major aspect of her life and a talent to be proud of--even by her writing professor, a novelist herself, who sees Cath's potential but can't stand the thought of fanfiction. (They have multiple conversations about this, as the professor becomes something of a mentor for Cath. I'm telling you, this book is nerd heaven!) My biggest criticism of the book is that it could have just referred to Harry Potter by name and been less campy; this might have caused problems with the inclusion of snippets from the "Simon Snow" books and a few lengthy chunks of Cath's fanfiction, but these are largely extraneous to the story anyway. However, Rowell does a great job with the fanfiction excerpts, which are polished while still sounding like something an 18-year-old girl would write.
In the end, there are so many scenes and little moments in this book that struck a chord with me. I love that Cath attends a big state university--there are so few novels set in college, and most of them seem to be about people quoting poetry at one another at small liberal arts colleges; I loved reading about the kind of school I attended, with a huge campus, where people work part-time and aren't necessarily academically-oriented. I loved Cath's realization that she comes from a mostly rural state where her experience growing up in Omaha isn't the norm; I had that too. And the clashing assumptions about sex between Cath and her roommate. And Cath's arguing with her boyfriend about whether or not his chivalry is respectful. And her heightened awareness of her safety on campus at night (even though physical danger is not a part of this story): I too have dialed 911 on my cell phone just in case. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Fangirl isn't great literature, but it's a fun, funny and true-to-life story of an experience I haven't seen fictionalized before, and for that I love it. Recommended to anyone who's been weird in college, or anyone who sees that in their future. I wish I could have read it when I was 17.
70 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Confession: I've been a shipper practically my whole life. It must be congenital, because I was obsessing over the relationships of fictional characters long before anyone came up with that label. As a child, I didn't dare talk about it, because I thought that people would think I was weird. Ok, weirdER. Still, I knew that I couldn't be the only one, and I kept an eye out for books with characters with the same quirk. These days, of course, the internet allows millions of people like me to find peoople like themselves so they can collectively gush over their favorite ships, but "Fangirl" is the first book I've seen on the subject. And it's about. freakin'. time.
But I didn't give "Fangirl" four stars just becuase it's about a subject close to my heart. It anything, I'm more critical because I know exactly what shipping is like. And this is a realistic picture. Our main character, Cath, is an introverted girl. She doesn't like dealing with new people and prefers the company of her identical twin sister, who shares a love for the fictional world of "Simon Snow" (think "Harry Potter). They ship Simon with his rival, Baz (think Draco/Harry, aka Drarry), and write fanfiction about it. But when it's time for college, Wren is ready to leave "Simon Snow" behind. Cath is decidedly not, and goes on writing her (very popular) fanfiction, "Carry On, Simon." Things in that world are an escape from the real one that includes: her increasingly distant and increasingly wild sister; an unstable single father back home; a mean roommate; and her roommate's ever-present, perpetually smiling boyfriend. Cath does well in her writing class (and teams up with a cute classmate to boot), but her true inspiration is Bazon (it isn't called by this name in the book, but it totally should've been). Other writing feels like a chore. And her professor is not keen on the idea of fanfiction. Cath needs to start living in the real world, but how can she when she doesn't really want to?
There's so much to love with these characters; they're so fresh and realistic. Cath's introversion rings true. There aren't any studies or statistics on shippers that I know of, but I'd be willing to bet that most are introverts. Developing characters and their worlds takes a lot of daydreaming. And of course, the worlds we create for ourselves are usually more exciting than the one we live in. How could they not be, when we create them to our own ideals? And how do you learn to care about your own characters and stories when it's so much easier to just stick to the ones you know and love? These are dilemmas I'm all-too familiar with. Some might be frustrated by Cath's unwillingness to engage, but I thought it was understandable. She's not a complete recluse, and she's not too timid to say what she thinks. She's not an insufferable hipster, either, which was a relief. Wren isn't as well developed, but then, she doesn't come into the story as much. Her partying seems to be a way of coping, though, and this was a good contrast to Cath's reaction. Cath's roommate, Reagan, was great. I loved how frank she was, and she was really funny. Most books would cast her critical nature in a bad light, but not this one. She and Cath had an unusual but totally believable chemistry, and they were fun to watch together. Levi, Reagan's boyfriend, was also a fully-rounded character. He's exceedingly friendly to everyone, and he's strangely interested in Cath's "thing" with Simon Snow (and in Cath herself). It's obvious pretty early on that he and Cath are going to end up together (the love triangle was kind of unnecessary). I appreciated that their relationship developed beyond them becoming a couple. Cath's shyness with her first real boyfriend, her worries about the difference in their maturity and relationship-experience, were so relatable. Their relationship was encouraging, as shippers commonly worry about how real relationships will compare to the pairings they love (not that I know anything about that). The dad was another good character, very caring, but casual. He and Cath have a good rapport, and I think many teens will relate to Cath's struggle with leaving him at home. The only other character really worth mentioning is Cath's Fiction teacher, Professor Piper. She wasn't one of the best characters, but she does bring up an interesting debate about the value of fanfiction. I like that Cath finds an answer for herself, but still leaves room for the reader to draw their own conclusions.
The story here was strong, mostly mundane events, but it brought out the best in the characters, made for interesting interactions. Between chapters are excerpts from the "Simon Snow" books and from Cath's fanfiction (the latter appears in the story some, too). These were compelling in their own rights, and made me wish that they were real works I could read. I found myself getting into the fanfiction, especially. Actually, I... I kinda shipped that. I thought it was great that Cath shipped slash (a gay pairing), as so many do.
The writing is also excellent. Both the prose and dialogue are natural and funny. There are lots of references to the tropes and cliches of fanfiction that made me laugh out loud. The excerpts from "Simon Snow" and Cath's fanfiction capture the styles of the genres perfectly.
So, with all that, why not five stars? Well, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, I wanted the story to dig deeper when it came to shipping. We know that Cath is into Bazon, but we never really see just how important it is to her. We know that Bazon is important to Cath because she says that Bazon is close to her heart. I believed her, because I understood how she feels. But I'm not sure people who aren't shippers will get it. We don't get to see what about Bazon first appealed to Cath, how she fell for it, how those characters grew in her mind and became a part of her. And I wanted to see her explore questions like, why is this so important when it's not, technically, real? How do you deal with the fact that fantasy is more exciting than reality? Questions like these can make a girl lonely, and, though some are answered without being asked (Cath falls for Levi without ever wondering how real love will compare to Bazon), I still wanted to see her ask them. I have some answers to these questions, but it could've been insightful and inspiring to see how Cath handled them. Not that I expected Cath to be exactly like me, but as people who think and fantasize a lot, shippers as a group do tend to ruminate. I thought it was a big omission that we don't see Cath and Wren as children, how Bazon helped them get through their mother leaving, how it brought them together. Shipping has always been mostly a private affair for me, and I would've loved to see how it worked when shared between two people. It also would've made Wren a more fleshed-out character. I wanted to know more about her in general, what she's feeling, what she's struggling with. Speaking of characters that could've had more development, Nick felt like more of a plot device than a fleshed-out character. And I thought the issues with the mother could've been explored more thoroughly, though I was glad that everything with her wasn't wrapped up neat and tidy by the end.. Finally, the one reference to "Harry Potter" was jarring. It's kind of hard to believe that such similar series could achieve the same popularity in the same time period.
IN SHORT: "Fangirl" is a great novel that tackles the subjects of shipping and fanfiction with much humor and affection. Most of the characters are well-rounded, sympathetic, and totally believable. In fact, they were the best, most realistic YA characters I've read in a long time. Their relationships are just as good as the characters themselves (including a tender and well-written romance). Cath's problems and interests will be so relatable to shippers. The story is interesting, and I loved the excerpts from "Simon Snow" and Cath's fanfiction (especially the latter). The main reason I didn't give it five stars is that, while shippers will understand Cath's feelings, I'm not sure others will. The book doesn't give enough detail about how she got into it, how she felt about it then, and how she feels about it now. It would've helped a lot if we'd seen how Cath and Wren built this world together. THis also would've helped flesh Wren's character out more, as she and one or two others weren't as well developed as they could've been. But overall, I loved every minute of this book. I felt like I'd been waiting to read it for a long time.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2014
I'm sorry to rain on the Rainbow Rowell parade, but this book really just did not do it for me. I liked Eleanor and Park decently well (though I wasn't foaming at the mouth with delight the way a lot of people seemed to be), and there were things I liked about Fangirl (as someone who used to write lengthy Harry Potter fanfiction, I loved the premise of this!), but ultimately I just could not get past some of the problems with this book.
First and foremost, I found the Simon and Baz story excruciatingly dull and honestly kind of a bizarre choice on the author's part. It's obvious that Simon and Baz are basically Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy stand-ins. I used to spend way too much time on Fanfiction.net, and have certainly read my fair share of Harry/Draco "slasher" stories. It seems really obvious to me that the author Rowell WANTED this to be about a Harry Potter fanfic, but her legal team said no. So rather than thinking up something original, she came up with Simon and Baz, wizards living in a witchcraft and wizardry school, who hate each other, and are fighting an evil dark lord. SOUND FAMILIAR????
So that was really odd and made me feel a bit uncomfortable. It kind of felt like Rowell was borrowing from JK Rowling in a strange and not fully authentic way--like I would have honestly felt better about it if the story was just blatantly about Harry Potter rather than about ANOTHER blockbuster book about teenage wizards that totally isn't Harry Potter at all!!!!! Even weirder was the fact that Harry Potter (the REAL Harry Potter) is actually referenced in the book, so it's not like Rowell is even trying to create some alternate universe where HP never happened and Simon Snow is all there is. So, so weird... did not work for me.
I found the endless Simon & Baz excerpts really boring. It reached a point where I skipped them entirely. I got the point that the Simon & Baz stuff was kind of a metaphor for whatever Cath was going through at a given time in the story, that she WAS using her own life to inspire her writing, just like her teacher asked her to do, etc. I got that. But I still found it really boring and clunky. I just didn't care about Simon & Baz at all. If this had been an actual Harry Potter fanfic it would have been SO MUCH BETTER.
Other than that, the romance between Cath and Levi was kind of underwhelming. I got tired of hearing about how wonderful Levi's smile was and how flat his face was and blah blah...I don't know, I just didnt' really feel it. He never really emerged as a real person to me. Honestly I was most intrigued by Cath's sister Wren, and by her friend Reagan. Those characters I would have loved to hear more about.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2013
Fangirl was one of my most anticipated reads for September but when I picked it up and started reading it...it just didn't work out. This was like an on-again off-again relationship...it was always an option even though I didn't necessarily want it to be...but at the same time I couldn't make myself step away from in permanently (I don't DNF books). In the end I was somewhere between happy and burnt out.
The overall story is one that I can get behind because I can honestly say...I get it. I can understand a character who is so in love with a fandom it covers her room (Yes that is a Slytherin banner on my wall...yes I do have a movie theater sized poster of Snape....what of it?). I get it, I use to write fanfiction and while I never hit the popularity that Cath did I understand the pressure of having people constantly telling you they can't wait for the next chapter or that something you wrote doesn't sit right with them. I even understand the social anxiety and the fear of waking up to find yourself marked with the 'crazy' pen. So what was the problem? Everyone else. I spent about 53% of this book hating most of the side characters, Wren included, and since this is a book about relationships it felt incredibly dragged out. Some of them were flat out rude and said increasingly insensitive things because it's part of their dry humor, others turned into horrible people and, other than the reasons I have assumed, we are not actually given reasons as to why. It was a struggle to care about any of Cath's relationships for two reasons: the characters were hardly worth caring about towards the beginning and because at times Cath wasn't trying either. I'm glad to say after the half-way mark it started getting better and by the end I did like mostly everyone, I just wish it didn't have to force myself to read to that point. I did think Levi was a sweetheart, though like all the others he was mildly annoying towards the beginning but his charming chivalry won me over.
I want everyone to know that this isn't the fault of Rowell's, her writing is actually really nice. I loved the flow and the feel, and I liked how the details stood out and made things really pop. I just had some serious personality meshing issues. I do appreciate what this book is though and I love that it deals with real college struggles, forming new relationships, and how you can love a fictional world so much it becomes a part of who you are.
I think this is one of those books that just didn't work for me, but I can definitely see why so many others are going to love it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2013
I pride myself on my cynicism. I pin it like a ribbon on the dark clothes I wear to broadcast my angst. So when it comes to Rainbow Rowell I'm conflicted because she's now written two books--Eleanor & Park and Fangirl--that make me want to dress myself ROYGBIV style while frolicking in a vat of kittens.
This is not okay.
That is not to say I will stop reading Rainbow Rowell books. Because: why? Why would I deprive myself of her perfectly gooey stories that never descend to shallowness and always leave me joyous? I guess I might just have to admit that for a few hours at least, when consuming a Rainbow Rowell book (consuming being the most apt descriptor: you do not read these books, you consume them like a cake topped with gobs of frosting and innumerable sprinkles), I am more sunshine than dark side of the moon. Yes, I am now an unabashed fan(girl) of Rainbow Rowell.
While Eleanor & Park was an intense and internal tale of first love, Fangirl is a brighter, vaster tale of both first love and a bunch of things that happen when you "come of age." Cath, a prolific fanfiction writer with social anxiety, goes to college and has to learn to navigate the real world instead of merely retreating to the safety of her fictional and internet-based world. It's probably one of the better depictions of college--and I suppose also, young adultness--that I've read about. There's drunkenness, roommate squabbling, empty nest syndrome, mental health problems, infuriating professors, dining hall conundrums, unintended makeouts, and family drama. These issues elevate the book above a standard romance. But let's be real: I'm mostly here for the looooove and the fangirling.
First, the fangirling. Cath doesn't just write fanfiction; she writes Simon Snow fanfiction. In her fic, Simon (picture a scarless Harry Potter) and Baz (imagine Malfoy with a dash of Edward Cullen) are not the enemies they are in the canon series but gay lovers! It's wildly popular of course. Throughout the book, excerpts from Cath's fanfic and the "real" Simon Snow series precede chapters about Cath's real life, often cannily mirroring what is happening to her. I have but one request: Rainbow Rowell, write a full version of Cath's Carry On, Simon fanfic and post it to Fanfixx.net, please & thank you. I loved these stories, mostly how they goofily parody Harry Potter. The fangirl aspect itself will be appreciated by anyone who has loved something to the point of obsession. Obsessions are always best when shared with others, and I love how Cath and Company were unabashed nerds about this stuff.
And now, the love story. The biggest complaint I can lodge against Ms. RR is her twee writing. Sometimes there are quotes that are cute, yes, but also demand an eyeroll. But I don't much care because these twee statements are said by BFF-worthy characters. Cath and her love interest Levi are nerds but most importantly they're kind. It is simply pleasant to read about decently well-intentioned people trying to figure things out but occasionally screwing up. Their romance is wonderful. It builds slowly--I'm talking Victorian style courtship--but because of its pace, everything between them feels earned. When the culminating moments arrive (and there are more than a few culminating moments; that's the benefit of taking things slow--everything new, even the slightest touch, is a culmination), I was ecstatic. Like I'm-grinning-so-hugely-right-now-I-probably-look-deranged-ecstatic. I just really really like it when two people kiss and it makes them happier.
In truth, I am not the type to gush or squee or deem something adorable. But here I am: gushing and squeeing over this positively adorable book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When Cath and her twin sister Wren get ready to head to college, Cath takes for granted that the sisters will room together. But Wren doesn't want Cath for a roommate. In fact, Wren thinks that it's time that Cath gets over her shyness, her obsession with the Simon Snow book series, the Simon Snow fan fiction that Cath writes, and the fact that their mother left them as kids. Cath's fan fiction has been her entire life for so many years--how is she supposed to get over the only thing that has been a refuge for so long?
Fangirl is possibly one of the best novels that presents an homage to nerdom of the early 21st century. Cath's story will resound with anyone who has ever preferred the company of books over people, and with those that willingly dressed up in costumes for midnight releases--multiple times. Cath's uncertainty throughout her first semester of college is palpable--she won't go to the dorm cafeteria because she doesn't know how it works--and her acerbic wit helps get her through all of the awkward moments. Roommate Reagan and her shadow Levi are endlessly entertaining and great friends, even though Cath is cautious of their kindness at first. The relationship between Cath and Wren is both complicated and simple; Wren isn't always very nice to her sister, but Cath loves her no matter what happens. Over the course of their first year of college their relationship changes a lot as each girl learns a lot about herself and each other before coming back to their shared love of Simon Snow. Rowell sprinkles excerpts from this fictitious series and Cath's own fan fiction throughout the novel to give a context to Cath's fandom, and they're a nice addition as long as they aren't taken too seriously. Complete with a tender, tentative romance that is just as memorable as the one in Eleanor & Park, Fangirl is an excellent coming of age story, hysterically funny and delightfully nerdy.
Cover Comments: This cover surprised me when I first saw it--it really reminds me of a graphic novel with the cartoon-like drawings and the speech bubbles. I don't think I'd ever seen anything quite like it on a YA cover (although it does resemble the cover for Eleanor & Park). I really like it, though! The colors are cool, but I hope it doesn't deter any male readers.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2013
Ever read a book that you want to read again as soon as you are done? In fact you want to read it again so much you have to physically stop yourself and keep repeating over and over in your head that you have a million other books to read? No, never happened to you? Well then you have not read Fangirl. Because OMG did this book ever give me all the feels! Feels, feels, everywhere.I loved it so much I don't even know where to begin with the amazingness of Rowell's imagination and untouchable writing.
Fangirl is the story of Cath, a college freshman with a love of all things Simon Snow, a popular book series she loved as a kid. Cath has been a fan of Simon Snow for so long she really doesn't know what life would be like without him. She reads the books, has the posters, is completely immersed in the Simon Snow fandom. So immersed she actually even writes fanfiction for the fandom. And through all the Simon Snow ups and downs Cath has had one person by her side and that was her twin sister Wren. But suddenly Wren is pulling away just as they are ready to hit college and Cath needs her around more than ever. Now Cath is on her own at school with a roommate that may or may not like her company and a boy that seems to always be around. Cath has always known where she has fit in with the Simon Snow crowd, has always had her place, but now she is out of her element and she must find out how to stand on her own and how to be herself.
Seriously I don't think this book could have been better in any possible way. The story was perfect, the setting was perfect and the characters were perfect (in their flawed ways). Everything just flowed so naturally that the book was really hard to put down. Cath was such an interesting character that was stuck between growing up and staying in that weird place between when you aren't a little girl anymore, but not an adult either. She had had Wren to rely on for so long and then she was no longer there and Cath was, for a lack of better words, lost. The only thing she could rely on was her love and writing of Simon Snow. She was weighed down with such anxiety about everything she was pretty much paralyzed with fear and truly one of the most remarkable things about Cath was watching her blossom and break out of the shell she had put herself in. With the help of Reagan and Levi, oh Levi!, Cath was no longer Wren's twin sister or Simon Snow super fan and author, or daughter of a wayward mother and bi-polar father. She was finally just Cath, a girl that has a lot of layers that just needed help in showing them.
Like I said Reagan, Cath's roommate, and Levi, Reagan's guy from high school, were hugely instrumental in Cath becoming the amazing person she was by the end of the book. Reagan and Cath couldn't have been more different. They were night and day. But even with these differences they completely complimented each other and had a really great friendship. And then there was Levi. Sweet, adorable, completely charming in a goofy, sexy way, Levi. How I heart that boy. He was the absolutely perfect person to counter Cath. He was just so at ease with himself and his life and what he wanted. And the sweet things he did. SWOON! He is now on my list of book boyfriends, right at the top with Etienne St. Clair and Jonah Griggs. That right there says how much I love.
Although there isn't much about this book I would complain about, there were two things that bugged me. Honestly I thought all the fan fiction was a tad over the top. I completely understood its place in the story and the need for it. It helped Cath be herself and to stop worrying about everything. It let Cath express herself in a way she just couldn't in real life. But I also found it last a tad too much throughout the book. I wanted more Levi and Cath or Cath and Wren or Cath and Reagan. And I also hated the way Wren treated Cath sometimes like she was beneath her. That bugged the heck out of me because it wasn't really called for. Was Cath clingy when it came to her sister? Sure. But she also was only trying to help her and do the right thing. Wren was way too mean. You could feel the love between them but I just didn't like her attitude.
But even with those two minor things this book is still 5 stars and I loved it to the moon and back. Rowell is a master story teller. She gets her characters like almost no other authors in YA and she gets it down on paper in a way that is laid back and easy. I've read 2 of her books and fell in love with each one a little more. Rainbow Rowell is officially a member of my author auto-buy group. Welcome to the club Ms. Rowell.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2015
Well this is much more a coming-of-age novel than about fangirling. While there are some elements to the main character with being a bit obsessive over Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter), it is more her learning how to adapt to life. While I was expecting more fandom aspects going into this story I got some other aspects that made up for it.
So Cath and Wren are identical twins, setting off for college. For the past several years, they have been stuck together like glue. They lived a quiet life, with little socialism with classmates, neighbors,etc. What they did though was spend all their free time writing Simon Snow fanfiction together. Yet apparently Wren is ready for a change of pace. She wants a new experience, a life that is not co-dependant on her sister.
Cath, on the other hand isn't ready to even leave home. So she struggles to keep life the same but now she is alone. Dad is back home and her sister has chosen to not even room with her. So with a new roommate and a fanfiction story to carry on Cath trudges on.
Now let me explain about Simon Snow. Simon Snow is basically Harry Potter. At first I thought it was legal rights of mentioning the series but then Harry Potter itself is mentioned so then i just wondered WHY? Either keep it Harry Potter or make it seem as though Harry Potter fandom doesn't exist. The dual relationship just added some frustration. Anyways Cath likes working on her Simon/Baz fanfiction story (basically Harry/Draco). Anyone who has read or written fanfic will get a lot of what she talks about with expections, comments, etc with the online community.
Then we get Cath. Cath is the most socially inept character I think I have ever read about. Now I am not a social person. In fact I have social anxiety where dealing with people actually causes me to stress out. I know a couple others worse than me. So in some ways I could relate to Cath. I can understand the not wanting to go leave the dorm room, and avoiding the party scenes, etc. What I don't get is the near refusal to even try to make a friend. Reagan (her roommate) has to practically force her to socialize in the same living room! And trying to talk about anything besides Simon Snow--forget it!
Most fans I know can cross communicate other interests. Be it a Harry Potter fan, Trekkie, Otaku, Whovians, etc. They can convserse on matters outside of their specialty. Cath only has the one interest, and if you aren't interested, it is almost like you are not worthy. For example for Cath to give Levi (they guy who likes her) the time of day he simple let her read her fanfiction to him.
Through it all, I could still relate to a certain degree. Even though it's more an extreme. Having lived a very sheltered childhood, when I was first on my own, I had no concept how to deal with people and simple tasks like going to the store could nearly drive me insane just thinking about it. So watching Cath adapt to things like the Dining Hall, making friends, going out, etc was a reflection of my own maturing. A lot that makes it easy to see is how Cath reflects on things in how she sees herself. So been there with her!
Reagan and Levi try so hard to break Cath out of her shell. They obviously see some kind of potential. And I must say, I loved these two. What an amazing friendship they offer! I have decided everyone needs a Reagan in their life to call them on their crap. Even the other character relation dynamics between any character is just wonderfully done. It really brings the book to life for me.'
I wish the book brought out other aspects of being a fangirl to something. I felt it is a bit one dimensional to the writing fanfiction (we really don't even here about her reading fanfiction). I wish it better incorporated the feel of being a fangirl.
One thing that became overkill were the Simon Snow intro chapters. Every chapter we get a a peak into the fake Simon Snow books (or Cath's fanfiction). A first it worked so we get the Harry Potter relation, but after a few rounds in just detracted from the story and became annoying.
Ultimately, I loved seeing Cath branch out and feel more comfortable in other settings. The learning to balance her inner fangirl with real life. From the challenges her roommates, teachers and classmates give her, to the family drama. That is another thing that got to me in a good way. The family situations. I could very much relate to those. For parts I felt I could have been Cath. That and the relationships in the book are why I enjoyed it as much as I did.