Monday, August 19, 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Summary (from Goodreads)
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?
Wow. This is my favorite book of 2013 so far. Just wow.
This book just spoke to me, personally, on so many levels. For starters, it’s a twins story! And you know I love those. But more than that, I just connected so deeply with Cath. My first semester of college was terrifyingly similar to hers. And, I so know what it is like to grow up with someone who is bipolar. And I also so know what it is like to be drastically worried about a parent you leave behind. And more than that I know what it is like to be a fan.
I never really got as deep into fan fiction as Cath. Truthfully, I didn’t even know it existed until I went to college, though I guess I’d already written some-just not knowing what it was called. But, I enjoy reading it sometimes (and almost always feel like I’m admitting to some guilty pleasure when I mention it). But, as Cath was a Simon Snow fan, I was/am still a Harry Potter fan (the obvious Simon Snow counterpoint). I was the president of my college’s Harry Potter club. I’ve re-read those books possibly more than Cath had re-read Simon Snow. And my first big budget, adult vacation that I’m taking without any family is to Universal Studios (in the fall) to go to the Harry Potter island of adventure. Thankfully, at my college I was able to find a lot of other Harry Potter fans (enough to have a giant club of movie marathon watchers, midnight release partiers, Tri-Wizard Tournament attenders, etc.) And I felt so bad for Cath for not having such an accepting fan-based club of friends like I did.
It actually took me longer than a day to read this book. It was a little tough for me to read about how awkward, embarrassing, and introverted Cath’s life was in the beginning of college because again, I connected with her so deeply. And it brought back some awkward memories. Thankfully, I never felt like I couldn’t ask someone where the dining hall was; I seriously cannot imagine living on protein bars for as long as Cath did. And I actually went out with my roommate my first night of college instead of saying no a thousand times. However, it did take me a semester to find my footing socially, and actually make some of the best friends a girl can make, friends I’m still close with now.
Everything was just so hard for Cath. And this made reading her story a little hard, a little too close to home for me. But, as most main characters tend to do, Cath grows with her new experiences. Every page, ever conversation, every lunch with her roommate was just pure writing beauty. Seriously, Rowell’s words are just genius. She gets young adults like very few people do. She can write serious, funny, and remarkably unique, intelligent characters that I can only really compare to the characters of a John Green novel. They’re flawed, but wonderful. And even the somewhat slutty, mean, and rude roommate become someone with a heart –someone real, someone you might actually wish to be friends with. There were conversations that I had to re-read a few times  just to soak in their awesomeness.
And poor, poor Cath has nothing easy. Her dad is bipolar. And she’s afraid for him as she soon as she’s at school. Her best friend and actual identical twin has left Cath and Simon Snow behind for frat parties and alcohol poisoning. Her boyfriend breaks up with her over the phone for someone else. And she kind of possibly might be interested in a boy that is taken. Add this to the drama of a returned mother (who left them when they were little), a crazy deadline to finish her fanfiction saga before the actual author of Simon Snow comes out with the last book, the inability to write her own story with a completely new world that doesn’t already belong to much-beloved characters, and this deep-rooted fear that all of her strange quirks are just signs and foreshadow of her oncoming craziness, and this book is just impossible not to like.
Each chapter starts with either sections from Simon Snow’s books or sections from Caths’ fanfiction. And when I say Cath writes fanfiction, I’m saying she is huge. She has thousands of people reading her work every day. And you’d think someone with that many followers would be a little cocky, but Cath isn’t cocky at all.  I loved watching her struggle with her writing. This book definitely shines light on the fact that writing isn’t easy, that writing for a particular audience can be the least easy thing possible. And the way Rowell understands fandom is remarkable.
I loved that this was a YA that had college as the setting! Can we have more please? I loved that it was a twin story, but that it also wasn’t –it was kind of a separate life story. I loved the language, the dialog, the emergency dance party, and the romance. I loved how Rowell wrote mental illness and family. I loved the side characters (though I really hated the mom and I kind of hated Cath’s twin sometimes). I loved how smart everyone was. Even the character who couldn’t really read came off as remarkably intelligent. And while I can see some people not loving the ending, I did. I kind of went back to make sure there wasn’t any more (like you would in a fast food bag looking for spare crumbs of French fries), but I’m happy with it. I’m happy with this as a whole.
I recommend this one to fans of Harry Potter, to readers of fan fiction, to introverts, to girls going away to college for the first time, and to pretty much anyone who is looking for a good, moving, powerful, coming of age story. I can only give this a 10/10.


  1. I've pre-ordered this book and every review I've seen so far raves about it so I'm getting really excited about reading it. Connecting with a character is what makes a book great or just okay. Your review just tells me so much about this book. It was an awesome review! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts of it. :)

  2. I got a copy of this one at BEA and even though I haven't read many contemporaries these past years, I'm really excited to get into this one (soon) I love how excited you are about this book and seeing that it's your favorite this year only makes me more eager :D Awesome review Nori ^^

  3. OMG, Nori, do we agree on something? I loved this book so much, and Rainbow Rowell is basically the best ever. I also didn't know about fan fic until college. Of course, we also had dial up internet at home until I went to college or just right before, so it's not like I had much facility to explore the internet.

    That's so funny. Sometimes it's harder to read or watch embarrassing stuff than horror. Like, HONEY NOOOOOOOO. DON'T STAY IN THE ROOM.