I don’t often read contemporary. But apparently when I do, it’s adorable books such as Fangirl. I picked up Fangirl this spring and finished it in one sitting. A 3 and a half hour escape into rural America, fan fiction, and college.
This is the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve ever read. Goodreads has everything from 5 stars to 1 stars, so I was close to skeptical about the story. But I was easily won over by the charm and characters. Apparently, all a book needs is a character taking a creative writing class to have my complete attention.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Synopsis 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?
First of all, I really understood Cath. Holed up in a college dorm writing. Misunderstanding guys, eating granola bars rather than eating alone, family problems.
Her relationships reminded me so much of my college life. From being extremely skittish of self-assured roommates, worries about her sister’s crazed lifestyle, to her nerdish crush on a ‘smart guy.’
I felt Cath’s pain and her growth. Her loneliness was tangible and her feelings so vibrant.
And then there’s Levi. Farm boy studying Ag. Just adorable. But such an accurate portrayal of the farm guys I know.
Her sister and roommate added a lot of fun to the story. At first I was iffy about both of them. But Rowell built up their character, and they both became a fun part of the story.
The plot? I’m not sure there was a real plot beyond “First year of college experiences” The entire story revolved around Cath’s writing, her relationships, her classes. Throw in some drama, and normal college life.
For someone in college, I knew what was coming. You could practically guess the next steps.
I also thought the world was murky. Simon Snow is this incredibly popular story, and yet the characters are referencing Harry Potter. It felt like there should have been one or the other, since both series have such similar plots.
And while I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I felt cheated out of Cath’s story. I know the book focuses on her hard work writing Carry On, Simon. But I wanted to read her other project she wrote for her class. I wanted to read more of Cath’s writing, not just hear other people chat about how great a writer she is. And while I understand fan fiction was important to Cath, it would have been nice to see her fall in love with her own creativity.
Then the ending – it just wasn’t satisfying. I’m not surprised readers took to Twitter to ask Rowell what’s up with her characters. What happens in the future? Unlike some books, the end was just choppy. Thankfully, I was so happy that life was better for Cath, I didn’t grow frustrated with the lack of real closure until later.
Fangirl is one of those books you’d give a 5 star rating the minute you’re done with it. So sweet and heartwarming, so emotional. I loved it!
But then you allow yourself to think about it. Not just the emotions. The plot. Character growth.
And so my original first impression rating went down. Cath could have grown more as a character, and the overall plot was weak
Still a pretty sweet story, but I’m giving it 3 1/2 stars.
On the plus side, Rainbow Rowell has written several other stories. After reading Fangirl, I’m planning on picking up Eleanor and Park and Attachments.
Rainbow Rowell’s author website – here
And now my favorite part of a book review – quoting the book!
Rainbow Rowell makes prose feel like poetry. I love the quirky quips, the way she strings dialogue together. Here’s some of my favorite lines
“Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”
“How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, ‘I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.”
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
This one made me laugh out loud – “You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.”
Have you read Fangirl? What’d you think?
If you’ve read other Rainbow Rowell books, I’d love to know what you thought of them!
Drop a line in the comments and we can chat about Rowell, Fangirl, and writing fanfiction.