Book Reviews

Book review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Author: Rainbow Rowell

Pages: 445

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Humour

Publication date: 10th September 2013

Read: 14th-16th January

Rating: 4-stars

“Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”

This book focuses on our main character Cath, as she and her twin sister Wren leave home for the first time to go to university. Cath is anxious and introverted and her world revolves around writing fanfiction of characters from the famous Simon Snow book series, but when she meets her new roommate Reagan, and Reagan’s friend Levi, the parameters of her insular world begin to expand and she learns that the real world of university has potential to be as good as her fictional one.

I adored this book because reading it reminded me of how much I loved university and how much I enjoy writing (especially fanfiction). Cath is such a genuine character and watching her overcoming fears and trying new things was so satisfying. Her passion for the characters from the Simon books really resonated with me, as I know the feeling of letting a cast of characters take over your life (looking at you Six of Crows, A Darker Shade of Magic and The Book Thief). As someone who writes, I also identified a lot with what she said about writing stories and crafting dialogue.

I read somewhere that Rainbow Rowell wrote some of her own social anxiety into Cath’s persona and I think that was the reason it came across as so well done. I also found the portrayal of her Dad’s mental health problems and Wren’s substance abuse very realistic.

Although I really liked Cath, Reagan and Levi sometimes stole the show for me. Reagan’s no-nonsense attitude and deadpan way of speaking were so enjoyable to read and I loved the way she and Cath developed an unexpectedly close friendship. And Levi. Ah Levi. His quick wit and constant need to bring everyone Starbucks were just so heart-warming. I was also very taken by the way that Reagan and Levi were always there for Cath when she needed them. They had her back. And that was beautiful.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Wren. While I recognise that she was struggling with a few issues and needed help resolving them, I felt her treatment of Cath was poor and unfair throughout most of the novel, at times bordering on manipulative. So Wren gets a C+ from me in family relations. Could try harder.

The plot had plenty of drama and delicious romantic twists, and although I usually find the pacing of contemporaries naturally slower than fantasy/sci-fi novels (fewer magical battles and such), I thought this was spot on. Rowell’s narrative style is buoyant and incredibly enjoyable to read; there were lines that had me snorting out loud with amusement and I love it when a book can make me do that.

The way the author used Cath and her stories as a medium through which to promote fanfiction in a positive light was excellent. She dismantled stigma surrounding the topic and drop kicked it straight off the page. And I am always here for dismantling stigma.

Fangirl is such a gentle and heart-warming book with such a satisfying ending. It was cosy, it was uplifting, it was fun. I finished the book and immediately wanted to go out and buy a copy of Carry On because I need more of Simon and Baz’s adventures. Congrats Rainbow Rowell, you have me hooked.


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