Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Book Review)

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

What this book is about:
Cath and Wren are twins – the looking alike kind. They’ve always been very close to each other, sharing everything. Happy moments, like writing Simon Snow fanfiction together, but also sad moments, like being abandoned by their mother. Now Cath and Wren move off to college and Wren has made it clear that she wants for once to be her own person. Cath has her famous Simon Snow fanpage, a crazy roommate who brings her boyfriend in their room all the time, the required homework and assignments and a lot – a lot – of anxiety. Will Cath be able to grab college by the horns and deal with her new life without the help of her built-in best friend, Wren, or is she going to freak out and lose it?


p1040701_fotorSo, if you are in the mood for a light, young adult contemporary story of self-discovery, growing up, building friendships and new romance, this is what you’ll get with Fangirl. In this book we are following Cath in a third person perspective as she enters college with her twin sister. The book is divided into two parts, Fall Semester of 2011 and Spring Semester of 2012. Each chapter is closed by a short “excerpt” from Cath’s (and Wren’s) fanfiction stories or Gemma T. Leslie’s (the original Simon Snow author) Simon Snow books. In the beginning of the book we also get a page of information on Simon Snow and the books in the form of a Wikipedia-type article. Basically, Simon Snow is – to many of us – a reimagining of Harry Potter and while reading Fangirl the similarities between Harry and Simon will become very prominent. Now, specifically about this Special Edition that I accidentally bought because it was cheaper, while the pink cover might now be appealing to everyone, there are four wonderful pieces of art from Fangirl fans that really make this a beautiful book cover.

She just needs to settle her nerves.
To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her throat, and shove it all down to her stomache where it belonged – where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.

p1040706_fotorBut this is not just a story of growing up and making it on your own. What is interesting in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is that she decides to discuss two topics that people stigmatise very easily. Homosexuality and mental illness. These two very separate themes both hold a major part in our story of Cath. First of all, she is a straight girl writing fanfiction of two boys in love and she loves it. Rowell is not scared to show through her characters and in a very respectful manner that not everyone understands homosexuality and sometimes not everyone accepts it. Moreover, her main character, Cath, could possibly be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Cath and Wren’s dad is Bipolar which means he goes through months of Depression followed by months of Mania. Wren is also having difficulty controlling her alcohol consumption and finally, Levi is dyslexic – he has a severe learning disability. Since Cath is our protagonist we are mainly walking through Cath’s steps and being inside her head. While many people might find her thoughts irritating or excessive, I thought that Cath’s character was very well conceptualised. Yes, life is difficult when you worry about every single thing, when your brain doesn’t take a break, when everything is overwhelming and no-one else seems to notice that you are struggling through every day, every new situation, every new encounter.

In new situation, 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.

This is a somewhat different YAp1040708_fotor contemporary than the ones I’m used to so far. If there was an imaginary spectrum, this book would fall in the old-YA category or the “older” young adults. This story takes place in college with an 18-year-old protagonist while most YA stories I’ve read take place in high-school with a 16 or 17-year-old protagonist. So, even though Cath is still considered a teenager according to the American culture (other cultures consider 18-year-olds to be adults), she deals with somewhat different issues. There is alcohol (thank you Rainbow Rowell for this realistic addition to your story), there is partying and there is sex. Adolescents who are preparing to leave their nest for the first time can actually find themselves in one aspect of Fangirl or two. It’s good to read a YA contemporary from a more “mature” perspective for once; one that feels a little bit closer to where I’m at now and not where I was 7 to 8 years ago.

“So,” she said instead of “hello”. “Welcome to Fiction-Writing. I recognise a few of you-“She smiled around the room at people who weren’t Cath.

p1040712_fotorSince I started my Masters the pressure has been on from the beginning. I have so many things to do and my head just needs to read something very easy to understand and to follow when I read for fun. Fangirl was, thankfully, what I needed at that moment. And even though it was light and breezy I still had some issues with it. Specifically, I found a few aspects of the story to be somewhat unrealistic for me and that bothered me because generally, Rowell’s story felt very realistic to me. Do you see my problem? The romance didn’t feel real, didn’t feel strong enough, didn’t look like a real-life scenario or situation. Cath’s life also felt too calm to be chaotic. I mean, being a blogger myself I find it mostly difficult to keep up with the schedule I set for myself and manage all my other responsibilities. So how come can Cath produce so many words and get so much work done on her fanfiction while also attending life? It just doesn’t seem true to me.

“What did you eat today? No lying.”
“Something ingenious I discovered at QuikTrip: It’s a sausage wrapped in a pancake, then cooked to perfection on a hot dog roller-”
“Come on, Cath, you told me not to lie.”

From the perspective of a 16 to 19-year old girl or guy, this is a quite interesting coming-og-age story. It deals with important issues that many teenagers approaching adulthood have in their minds consciously or lurking under the surface of their grey matter. It’s a fun and respectful book imagined with humour and a bit of magic. There is some cursing throughout (again, thank you Rainbow Rowell, people do curse almost daily and we are old enough to take it!), there are boys and girls, friendships, romance, ex-partners and new love interests. It’s a small glimpse in the life of an almost-adult girl. Do you think this is something you will enjoy? For me the story continues soon with Carry On, Simon and Baz and some Rainbow magic!


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BookDepository: Fangirl (Special Edition)

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