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REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


“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? Open her heart to someone?

Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?”

Dear Ms. Rowell,

Your books have the ability to take me back to certain times in my life. From the weirdness of Y2K, to the social acceptance issues of high school, to the jumble of conflicting emotions that signal the new world of college, I remember it and feel that you’ve captured the essence. I love that you set your books in Nebraska. So often it’s Texas, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado that get all the Midwestern US state love so “Go Nebraska!”

 Fangirl by Rainbow RowellCath not only has to deal with being a freshman at college, she also has to come to terms with her twin sister’s desire for independence from their twindom. I think you’ve nailed that awkward lurch towards independence that is freshman year. Excitement crossed with a little uncertainty and some bad decisions.

Cath and Co aren’t perfect. When she continues to argue her point about submitting her fanfic story for an original writing assignment with her professor, I wanted to pip up from the back of the office and say, “Don’t keep digging the hole any deeper.” and “No, you can’t submit true fanfic as an original work.” When Levi reminds Cath that she’s lucky her professor is giving her a second chance and Cath still shows a hint of sulk, I wanted to say, “this doesn’t happen in the real world after graduation.” Unfortunately, Wren’s battles with alcohol play out on college campuses each year. But then the sisters are still 18 and learning.

As for the actual reams of Simon Snow fanfic included in the story, it does show that Cath is a good author. Plus she reads it aloud to Levi it does serve as a kind of initial bonding experience between them but I did get tired of it. I wanted more of the real world and less of the “Simon Snow” world – more Cath, Wren, Levi and Cath’s wonderful roommate Reagan and less fanfic.

Is Levi too perfect? Yes, Levi is almost too perfect. He’s the perfect starter boyfriend who might in the future merge into the perfect keeper boyfriend and maybe more. He’s cute in his own receding hairline way, he doesn’t push Cath too far or too fast, he has the patience of Job for Cath’s fumbling foray into dating, he’s supportive of Cath’s fanfic writing and the time she and Wren need to reestablish their relationship. He’s funny, he’s well mannered and an all around decent guy. I love that he is all this but one or two faults beyond occasionally filching Cath’s power bars would have made him a touch more real.

Cath and Wren’s relationship with their father and mother served as the opening basis for the girls’ deepening involvement into the Simon Snow fandom. When their mother left and their father would get into his manic moods, they could control something in their lives by controlling the fanfic. Cath’s writing gets polished and honed from her time in the world – much like that of some now famous authors. She just has to gather her courage and confidence built over her two semesters at UNL and step off the Snow cliff into her own fiction. I doubt that the 1st semester Cath could have done it but after watching her grow and change, I can see that by the end of the book, she’s ready to try her wings.

The ending feels confident for these characters and open ended. Cath and Wren have survived their freshman year, found people they care for and about, the Simon Snow fanfic has been wrapped up, Cath has taken baby steps towards finding her own way in her own fiction and feels secure about her feelings towards her mother. At one point, after he’s started to try and convince Cath to date him, Levi asks her, “Are you rooting for me to win?” Well, I was rooting for all of them. B



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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Lori
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 08:44:54

    Sounds interesting and different. I want to try this.

  2. JJPP
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 09:21:09

    I love the other books by Rainbow Rowell that I’ve read – especially Attachments. So sweet, and so different.

  3. Patricia Eimer
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 09:27:30

    Okay this sounds adorably wonderful.

  4. Carolyne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 10:33:58

    I’ve heard so many recs for this from friends who snagged advance copies. I’ve been impatient for it to come out. Can’t get sample chapters from Amazon until tomorrow :)

  5. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:33:20

    @JJPP: So far, Attachments is my favorite of the three. while Eleanor and Park is probably the angstiest. They all have humor but I’d rank Fangirl behind Attachments, though not by too far.

  6. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:37:07

    @Carolyne: Have you tried her website? I think she has some samples there.

  7. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:41:21

    @Patricia Eimer: I love that the cover has Levi, a Nebraska ranch boy, wearing a Carhartt shirt.

  8. Mom on the Run
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 12:46:52

    Your review tempts me to read this book even though there’s absolutely nothing about it that hits any of my buttons…in fact most things do the opposite! I have kids ages 19-26, so I usually avoid books with characters so young, it’s set in Nebraska where I grew up (which makes it totally UNappealing to me–same with books set in Atlanta where I’ve lived for the past 30 years) and I just don’t get the whole obsessed by a celebrity thing. Never have, even when I was young.

    And yet in your hands, I’m thisclose to one clicking it.

    Bravo for a brilliant review.

  9. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 13:02:55

    @Mom on the Run: Hmmm. Looking at Amazon, I see that there are some inexpensive paperback copies (alas, the Kindle price is still expensive) of “Attachments” for sale. Honestly, so far it’s my favorite Rowell book and will give you a good idea of her writing style. It’s about adults, Y2K and is told mainly in emails. The hero is a sweetie.

  10. Renda
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 15:24:36

    I loved Attachments SO much I can’t bring myself to read anything else by Ms. Rowell.

    I know that makes no sense, especially when Eleanor and Park is not 10 feet from me because my daughter bought it and loved it.

    So speaking of my daughter, would Fangirl be to “old” for a 14-y-o, if you care to guess?

  11. Carolyne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 15:34:26

    @Jayne: Good suggestion… Of course, I already went ahead and lost my mind and pre-ordered a copy. It’s so thoroughly the sort of thing I should like. I’ll have to try her other titles too if this one works for me.

  12. Jayne
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 17:23:58

    @Renda: Well … there isn’t any sex, just some petting/touching kind of stuff but nothing overt. Cath’s sister Wren does drink and at one point, ends up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. I don’t think it would be too old for her these days but your mileage may vary as to what you want your daughter to read.

  13. Renda
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 19:13:11

    @Jayne, that is the info I needed. Thanks. She is a very sophisticated reader. Sigh. This will be right up our alley. Thanks.

  14. lily
    Sep 25, 2013 @ 16:51:42

    I loved this book like crazy! I’m a Rainbow Rowell fan after reading Eleanor and Park so getting this one was an absolute must! I like the connection with fandoms and how even though i don’t consider myself to be part of one or read fanficion the book highlights just how much of a culture it’s sort of become. People live and breathe fandoms so i liked how a book was written about them from a positive prespective than a negative one too. Cath was also just the perfect character and her relationship with her family was so realistic and done so beautifully i loved it. I like how she took her time with her romantic interest too, nothing was rushed and it really seemed like how a first time relationship would work to a newbie. Great review :) xx

  15. Jayne
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 03:54:08

    @lily: You make a good point about fandoms being shown in a positive light. Wish I’d thought of it for the review!

  16. Swati
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 04:19:05

    What a wonderful book this was! I found myself fangirling over Fangirl.
    The parts about Simon Snow I especially loved, considering the fact that I’m a die-hard HP fan. This is the first book of Rowell’s that I’ve read, and you can bet that I’m going to read all the rest.
    Here’s the full review:

  17. ava
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 01:01:29

    This book is just one of those books where you want the characters to be alive so much that you can’t stop thinking about them. Its adorable, wonderfully written, and just OMG ITS JUST NO I CANT GOSH UGHHHH why can’t life be like this!!!?!?? I’m obsessing over Levi and how perfect he is!!!!!!!! AHHHHH I CANT STAND IT!!!

  18. K.Castle
    Apr 17, 2014 @ 18:10:39

    I really didn’t get the ending… Can anyone who’s read the book help me? I guess it’s probably ’cause I skipped most of the Simon Snow bits. But does the book really just finish with her reading the stuff? And that at the very end of the Simon bit, when she’s supposed to be reading the last book out loud for Levi, saying it was taken from a story by Cather Avery? I didn’t get it at all. The simon author used Cath’s fanfic?

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