Fangirl: review

August 15, 2013 2013, 5 star books, contemporary, tonya 66

Fangirl: reviewFangirl by rainbow rowell
on September 10, 2013
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, 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?
I really have no idea how I’m going to review Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell without just, well… fangirling. Cath’s story touched me on a very real level, and I’m still not quite sure how to put into words how I feel about it.

Oh, Rainbow. Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow. How do you do this to me every time? With each book I think I can’t possibly love you, or your characters any more than the last,  and you prove me wrong. Every time.

You gave me brutal, agonizing, terribly perfect first love in Eleanor & Park. Giddy grins and a serious thing for shoulders in Attachments. And this time, in Fangirl, you gave me part of myself.

Thank you.

This is an important book, written at a very important time. I don’t know if it’s just the case of the internet making everything more visible, but it feels like more people than ever are becoming involved in one fandom or another lately. It’s fascinating, and a little crazy, and I think so so wonderful.

Fangirl is the first book I’ve read that contained the word ‘fandom’ and used it correctly–with all the connotations it holds, of community, and passion, and obsession, and just pure, outright love. It’s the first book that not only mentioned fanfiction without derision, but spoke of the intention and devotion behind it.

It’s the first book I’ve read that truly understood and celebrated the growing culture of fandom, and in doing so, I think became an incredibly meaningful story for those who give so much of their lives to it.

Certainly for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a character I could identify with as much as Cath.

Cath who lives off peanut butter and granola bars for the entire first semester, because the thought of going to the cafeteria makes her anxious.

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?…Bah.”

(Been there.)

Cath who is awkward and weird, and not really all that interested in making new friends.

“Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I’m a complete disaster.”


Cath who loves to write, and is so good she qualifies for a senior level writing class, but can’t seem to focus on anything but her Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fanfiction. Because that’s safe. That she knows she can do, and do well. Because when nothing else in her life makes sense, she can always fall back into the world of Simon and Baz, and lose herself in the familiar.

Cath who goes to great lengths to be alone, but who never feels alone when she has her computer near.

Until, of course, she falls for a boy who makes her question whether there isn’t more to life than Simon Snow.

What I love most about Fangirl is that even though Cath undergoes immense emotional growth throughout the story, never once does she stop being herself. She doesn’t make friends, and fall in love, and then suddenly realize she didn’t need Simon Snow after all. She didn’t leave her world; she expanded it.

And I think that’s such an important difference.

Okay. I’ve tried to be all analytical and actually talk about this book like a normal person, but really all I want to say is Fangirl made me so happy, and I swooned really hard, and since when am I attracted to receding hairlines and obscene eyebrows, oh I guess since Rainbow Rowell wrote Levi, and anyway everyone needs to read this.

Ahem. Okay. It’s out of my system now. Sorry about that.

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Tonya sig - teal

66 Responses to “Fangirl: review”

  1. Darith L.

    This book sounds like it will get me so much! Likewise, I am a fanatic…and in college! I really believe I’ll connect to this book on so many levels! I read an excerpt on Amazon, and that cafeteria description is so spot-on!

  2. ang

    I really shouldn’t be surprised that I want to read this book. Rainbow killed me in all the best possible ways with E&P. I need to snatch this one up, quick.

  3. Bonnie R

    Confession time. I have not read a Rainbow Rowell yet. I can’t decide which one to read first and I hear such mixed things about Eleanor & Park that I’ve become so indecisive as to simply not read any. But that’s just not working. This one really sounds adorable, maybe I should pick up this one. :) Or Attachments… that sounds cute too. What would you recommend?

    • tonya

      Hmmm. Well, Attachments is a cute, lighthearted adult book. Eleanor & Park is a pretty painful (and LOVELY) story of first love, set in the 80s. They’re so different, it’s hard to say which would be the best introduction, but I’d say go with Attachments for your first experience. Rainbow has a knack for creating very real characters in whatever setting she chooses, and at least Attachments will mostly make you laugh, rather than the tension and ache of E&P.

      (Now I’m second-guessing myself, ACK.)

  4. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    I completely identified with the same quote, Tonya! It was such a joy to read something about fandoms and fanfiction that felt so true to what it really feels likes to be a part of one and fangirl. Great review!

    • tonya

      It was such a validation to see part of my life written with such honesty. I’m so thankful Rainbow decided to write on this topic. :)

  5. A Canadian Girl

    Don’t kill me but I’d never even heard of Rainbow until a friend mentioned how much she loved Eleanor and Park. So, I went on Goodreads (of course), saw all the amazing reviews for it, and decided I should probably give her books a try. I’ve never been into fandoms but I’m looking forward to reading this one as it sounds awesome.

    • tonya

      You must read Eleanor & Park. MUST. It’s such a beautiful story. Rainbow has a knack for writing painfully real characters. You don’t have to be into fandoms or even fanfiction to enjoy Fangirl; I think any book lover can relate to feeling immersed in another world and not wanting to leave it. :)

  6. Lyn Kaye

    I never gave this author a second look. Even after the rave reviews and the others stating how much they love the books. This review is putting a dent in my reservations for this author….

    • tonya

      Why the reservations? Just too much hype? Whatever the case, I hope you give her a shot! I think she has a book for everyone. :)

  7. Lisa (Lost in Literature)

    Omg omg omg!!! I didn’t read your review because I’m starting Fangirl today and I don’t read reviews right before I read a book for myself… But 5 stars, yayyyy!!! :)

  8. Bookworm1858

    Not at all surprised to see a 5/5 review-I have been saving this (maybe for a Labor Day read) because once I’m done there will be no more Rowell books for me to read :(

  9. Lottie Eve

    Can’t wait to read this book. Any book that uses the word ‘fandom’ correctly is pretty awesome to me. And the story of Cath expanding her world sounds so sweet!

    Beautiful review, Tonya!

  10. Melliane

    wow it seems amazing! I love the sound of this one and the cover is just so fun! Thanks for the discovery!

    • tonya

      All of Rainbow’s covers are adorable. The better to match their contents, I suppose. ;)

  11. Kim

    I am beyond excited about this book. I know it’ll touch me on a very real level too. In high school/middle school, I was big into fandoms like Cath — mostly with the whole fanfic thing. The whole Cath / Wren storyline sounds interesting and it sounds really sweet how much Cath cares about her dad. Great review!!

    • tonya

      The family dynamic is so interesting and heartfelt in FANGIRL, it just adds another layer of realism to the story. I think you’ll love it!

  12. Shannelle C.

    I’m totally guilty of being the person judging people for writing fanfiction. But then, that’s pretty much me getting mad at all those people writing 1D fanfics.

    But this sounds like a nice book, and I love the excerpts you gave. You’re not the only one who identifies so much with this book!

    • tonya

      Fanfiction gets a bad rap, but it’s truly one of the best experiences of community I’ve ever had. :)

  13. Ning

    Aw this one sounds so amazing!! That first quote totally happened to me on my first few days at my college dining hall! I need to start reading Rainbow’s book ASAP!


    I’m thrilled you enjoyed this book! When I read the synposis a few months ago I nearly died and just knew I need this book right away. Another book by Rainbow Rowell? A book about fandoms? A book about the huge impact fandoms are creating in our culure? Yeah this book was destined for me. Great Review! You just want me to have the book in my hands all that much more.
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

    • tonya

      Right? It’s like she sat down and thought, hmmmm… what would be the most perfect book anyone could ever write? Oh, I KNOW. Hehe.

      Not too long to wait now! I can’t wait to have the official copy in my hands. :)

  15. Carina Olsen

    Aw, so glad you loved it :D I’m dying to read it. <3 I think I would love it as well. Sounds sweet and fun. <3 I have so much in common with the main character as well. So excited to read it :) Thank you for sharing your honest review. <3

  16. Keertana

    Tonya, I love that this author just WORKS for you. I have authors like that too and it’s the best feeling ever. I’m reading E&P right now, so I’m excited to eventually read this one too. I just adore a good novel about characters and a story about fangirling? I’m SOLD. ;)

    • tonya

      Right? It’s like this book was made for us book lovers–because what are we, if not fangirls? ;)

      I hope you love E&P!

  17. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    “it feels like more people than ever are becoming involved in one fandom or another lately.” < -- Book blogging sometimes feels like it's a fandom, even if we're not all discussing the same book like Simon Snow, the HP-Twilight mix. Oops, just read your next sentence. I hope that's not me using fandom inappropriately. “It’s the first book that not only mentioned fanfiction without derision, but spoke of the intention and devotion behind it.” < -- Yes. It gets major props for that, and did you read the acknowledgements? I love how Rainbow Rowell said she'd read a lot of fanfiction to prepare her for this book. So awesome. “Because when nothing else in her life makes sense, she can always fall back into the world of Simon and Baz, and lose herself in the familiar.” < -- That's why HP is totally going with me to that deserted island. “What I love most about Fangirl is that even though Cath undergoes immense emotional growth throughout the story, never once does she stop being herself.” <-- YESYESYES. That's the best part. I was afraid in the beginning that they might change her, that through all her trials and tribulations and through the romance, she might break and change. But she didn't, so I shall flail with happiness right along with you :).

    • tonya

      It made me SO HAPPY that her awkwardness and introversion were never “fixed”–it was just who she was, and that was OKAY. I can’t even put to words how much that meant to me. So glad you enjoyed as much as I did!

  18. Nikki

    I’ve never read anything by Rowell, but I think I need to start,if only because of this:

    “What I love most about Fangirl is that even though Cath undergoes immense emotional growth throughout the story, never once does she stop being herself… She didn’t leave her world; she expanded it. And I think that’s such an important difference.”

    All too often we see our heroes/heroines undergoing immense growth, but with that there tends to be the caveat of changing into a completely different person. I think it’s a beautiful thing when someone can grow as a person but not have to change who they are (if that makes any sense). If Rowell manages to actually achieve that, well, you need say no more. Count me in!

    • tonya

      Rainbow is adept at creating characters who undergo significant changes, but still retain the identity that made the reader fall in love with them in the first place. I hate when I read a book and hardly recognize the character when I get to the end–whether for good, or bad.

      I think you’ll fall in love with Rainbow’s characters and their journeys as much as I have!

  19. Sam (Realm of Fiction)

    I really need to read something by Rainbow Rowell soon, don’t I? I hear nothing but good things about ALL of her books. I’m so glad this worked for you, Tonya! I love those special reads that speak to you on a personal level. I really hope I can meet Cath myself one day. :) Lovely review.

  20. Heather Roddenberry

    Aw, this is a wonderful review! I love that you got all analytical but then added the emotional at the end–I think Rowell’s book bring out the best in reviewers sometimes (kinda like John Green:) I’m supposed to be getting an ARC of this one and I keep waiting and wishing every day because I’m so excited to read it, I’m ready for the swoons and the awkward moments and all the rest:)

  21. Mary @ BookSwarm

    All I want to do is hug this book to my chest and then read it again. And repeat. I love you, Rainbow Rowell!! You speak to my heart and my head and make me laugh. Just you try getting RR and Fangirl out of your system — I dare you! :)

    • tonya

      Yes, yes, YES. Did you see in my SDCC post where I totally embarrassed myself fangirling to Rainbow? It’s just impossible not to love her!

  22. Amy

    Fabulous review!! I am so glad that you loved this book and you could really connect with Cath. I have this one to review and can’t wait to get to it now!!

    • tonya

      Her three books are each so different in tone, but touched me equally. She’s become one of my favorite authors.

  23. Sadie A

    Lovely review, Tonya! I’m really glad this affected you in such a personal way. I love it when books really touch me, beyond simply providing an entertaining pass time. I’ve actually not read a book by Rainbow Rowell (how awesome is that name!?) before but I definitely will now. :)

    – Sadie @ Lyrics.

    • tonya

      The ones that touch me on a personal level are the ones I remember forever, and those I go back to when I need a reminder. I hope you pick up one of Rainbow’s books soon, they’re delightful.

  24. Liviania

    Glad you loved it! I’m really looking forward to this one. (But I must say, I don’t think my school’s cafeteria was that confusing.)

    • tonya

      Not confusing, so much as intimidating to those of us with a smidge of anxiety issues. ;)

  25. Andrea C.

    I am so excited to read this book! I’ve heard nothing but great things about it – which can be a little unnerving as I don’t want it to end up over hyped.

    I still haven’t read Eleanor and Park yet, which makes me a little shameful. I really need to jump onto this Rainbow Rowell bandwagon!

    ​~​Andrea @ ​Beauty but a Funny Girl

    • tonya

      I’m always wary of books that have been hyped to death, but I believe the buzz is genuine in this case.

      You must read Eleanor & Park. You will fall in love with them (and Rainbow), I just know it.

  26. Christina

    YAY! I totally accept that Rainbow Rowell’s writing isn’t for everyone, but it’s extra awesome to be able to flail over how meaningful every bit of her books are for me, this one especially. I’m waiting on Attachments, because I don’t want there to be no more for me to read by her!

    I didn’t avoid the cafeteria all that much, but I totally understand that sort of social anxiety. Given a slightly different background, I would have been Cath.

    “She doesn’t make friends, and fall in love, and then suddenly realize she didn’t need Simon Snow after all. She didn’t leave her world; she expanded it.” <-- Love love love this.

    • tonya

      I totally understand wanting to wait on Attachments, but I don’t know how you have the will power. I’m just so glad we have Landline coming. For now, I’ll have to content myself with rereading.