Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (review) // college, fanfiction, and the #nerdlife

16068905From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & ParkA coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

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?

Fangirl has been on my TBR for eons, and I’m sure I had been avoiding it due to my dislike for Eleanor And Park (one of the few books I had DNF’d and never picked back up). Fortunately, I came to my senses and grabbed Fangirl after years of hesitation, and for the most part, it payed off.

Rowell introduced all the characters so nonchalantly yet all of them made a strong enough impression to not fade into the background like some side characters tend to do. Cath was a great protagonist — likable, realistic, but also flawed and pretty annoying at parts. Her struggle with anxiety and adjusting to a new environment was so subtly expressed. I also adored the relationship between Cath, Wren, and their father. So full of love and concern but also realistic enough to depict all of their disagreements and ups and downs. The supporting characters — Levi, Reagan, Nick, etc. took some time to warm up to (some I still haven’t warmed up to), because they acted like plot devices at times simply to further Cath’s character development, but I did enjoy their presence in the story.

I loved where the story was going the first half. It was very carefully yet strongly plotted, and the themes of growing up and finding your identity were very, very relatable. I’m heading off to college this fall so exploring the atmosphere of a dorm room, dining halls, and overall college craziness was quite a visceral yet unpredictable experience, one I enjoyed actually. I loved the relationship between Levi and Cath at this point, and the tension between Cath and Wren was practically palpable. Cath’s dedication toward the Simon Snow fandom and her fanfiction was also nicely expressed, and I loved reading about her struggle to balance it with her duties as a college student and future fiction-writer.

Unfortunately, the plot totally fell off for me when the second half began. Cath’s relationship with her family, her writing journey, and her struggle with creating and maintaining certain relationships were all equally explored. And don’t get me wrong, it was all well done, but I didn’t find it as interesting as the first half. Levi and Cath’s relationship was a large reason for this; it felt a little blase and didn’t really seem to bring out anything particularly surprising in Cath. I called it out from the start and the progression of their romance was rather predictable and unchallenged.

My opinions on the second half didn’t stop me from enjoying the essence of Fangirl, however. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go in the end, but everyone can relate to the themes of growing up and breaking out of that shell. In this case, the shell is the #nerdlife. Which we can all totally relate to, right? Haha, but I would definitely recommend this to any young person out there, Rainbow Rowell fans or not.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thanks for reading, guys! What did you think of this review? Have you read Fangirl? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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