30 Comments

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Fangirl is the first book chosen for Tumblr’s official book club, #reblogbookclub. As I spend a ridiculous amount time on Tumblr (in fact, it’s nearly four years since I first joined) and consider it to be an immensely large and significant but often ignored space on the internet, I thought it was right to join in and finally see what everyone has been talking about. I see why it was the perfect choice for the first book. It’s a book for people who spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet, who do not distinguish between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends, and for whom ‘the fandom’ does not need explaining. I’m lucky to work in publishing, where blogging and tweeting and online fangirling is simply part of everyday life, and I often forget that a lot of people just do not understand.

Cath is a super fangirl. She loves nothing more than delving into the magical, fantasy world of Simon Snow and writing her critically-acclaimed fanfiction, for which is well known for on the interwebz. Yet it’s time for Cath to step outside of her comfort zone; it’s the start of her first year of university. She’s stuck in a room without her twin sister, Wren, living with an intense roommate, Reagan, who asks What the fuck is ‘the fandom’? and thinks life spent on the internet is life not worth living. And then there’s Levi, who she-might-like-but-who-cares-she-wouldn’t-know-what-to-do-about-it-anyway and besides, he’s Reagan’s boyfriend. And then there’s the family drama. She’s slipping away from Wren, who’s enjoying university life much more than Cath, and she’s desperately worried about her Dad, who’s now alone and suffering quietly. It’s just easier to escape into something she knows best: Simon Snow.

If you’re reading Fangirl, you’re probably already a bit like Cath. I do not doubt she will be in everyone’s top ten favourite characters of the year due to her brilliance and realistic personality. She cannot stand parties or forced social interaction, she wants to do well at school, but she also would rather spend all day reading, writing or on the internet, and she’ll use ‘just’ in every sentence as a defence that deflects any ounce of personal opinion. She’s anxious, more than anxious, most of the time, so she often makes terrible decisions. It is acknowledged that starting university can be an anxious time, but Rainbow Rowell truly understands – and represents – what it is like for a certain group of people, right down to Cath preferring to eat cereal bars in her room rather than go the dining room because she doesn’t know what to do. Cath’s also funny, intelligent, geeky and undoubtedly caring, but only to a certain point. She loves her family – and the family drama is another issue for her to deal with – but she’ll also just crawl into bed and silently panic when it all gets too much to handle.

Often, families are horrifically complicated and I love how Rainbow Rowell doesn’t take the easy way out where ‘everything all ended well because they were family and family love each other’. It’s much more complex than that. It’s not that easy. Cath and Wren, although identical twins, could not be more opposite: Wren is outgoing and social, but can also catastrophically collapse, whereas Cath is shy and reserved, and deals with situations by turning to her fanfiction. Although very different, they’re both fascinating characters to read about. I’m an only child, but I enjoyed reading about the difficult sisterly bond. And, then, of course, there’s relationships. Levi’s the new Etienne St Clair in YA and even if you do not fall in love with him, he’ll make you want a gingerbread latte.

You are likely wondering why I have not given Fangirl five stars. After all, it’s about people like me! Well, I talked to fellow blogger and fangirl Caitlin and we decided that it was because I’m not that sort of fangirl. There’s the solitary, role-playing, fanfiction/slash-writing, canon-appreciating, surrounded by the fandom-type of fangirl and then there’s the social, online community-finding, fansite-creating, tell-everyone-about-it-type of fangirl, and that’s what I am. I love to talk to people about what I love, whether that’s a television show or band or book series, rather than become deeply immersed in the world surrounding my fixation, which is why fanfiction never resonated with me, and why I could only understand Cath’s fangirling up to a certain point. (Although I always love a good username and adored Magicath and Wrenegade!). Of course, they often overlap very much, but rather than writing within a fiction world, I prefer write about it. But it’s the only reason I’m not giving Fangirl five stars!

Fangirl is one of the most wonderful, accomplished, authentic YA contemporary novels I’ve come across. I think we needed it.

Published: 10th September 2013 (US) 1st January 2014, although eBook is already available (UK)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (US) Macmillan Children’s Books (UK)
Pages: 448
Source: Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin for providing this book to review!

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30 comments on “Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I really love your review for Fangirl Stacey :). I liked how you talked about how you are as a ‘fangirl’ so to speak lol. What you said reminded me of this article that I recently read http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/an-open-letter-to-one-direction-fans-from-a-backstreet-boys. I also like the fact that this book focuses on girls who are in their freshman year of University. As someone who worked with first year students during both semesters of their first years, it’s always interesting to me to see how different the experiences are from my own. I might have to pick this one up at some point.

    • Thank you for sharing that article, Savindi! It also reminds me of that Crazy About One Direction documentary. Although I couldn’t relate to a lot of the fan behaviour, it was interesting to see how fandom was portrayed by others on television, especially fanfiction!

      • Oh I haven’t heard of that documentary! Or is it the one that recently came out about One Direction? Fandoms are quite the thing lol. I think you see it on tumblr a lot more than other media outlets. Maybe on twitter to a certain extent as well, but I think tumblr’s the main page. Your review also reminded me of the celebrity interactions or just what they do can spark a series of events. I don’t know if you follow Tennis, but Laura Robson (The British Number one) was followed by thousands of One Direction Fans because one of the members ( I think it was Harry) tweeted her about winning one of her games.

        After reading the article I sent you, I see the difference between how I was when Back Street Boys were the thing and how teenagers are today. My fangirling was a lot more quiet lol. Just among friends and I’d read articles about BSB but that’s as far as it went. Even today I don’t think I’d do the whole twitter thing of following a BSB member and just ask at least a thousand times for a retweet. I don’t quite understand that culture to be honest.

        P.S. Are you excited for Vampire Diaries to start? :)

        • Yeah, it was on fairly recently! I think it’s very different to 90s fandom, but not so different from 2000s fandom, such as McFly fans over the past ten years.

          I’m actually super behind on The Vampire Diaries! I think I’ve only watched season one and two and maybe some of three? I won’t be watching it until I’ve caught up.

          • This may be a question that might raise your eyebrows lol, but who are McFly? I don’t think I’ve heard any of their tracks in North America. Some musicians make it super big in Europe, but have a hard time entering the North American Market.

            I think season 3 of Vampire Diaries was the best one actually. I didn’t like season 4 that much. They could have done a better job, considering season 3 was probably the strongest one. I hope you enjoy Season 4 when you watch it :).

            • I really loved season two!

              McFly a British band, although mainly popular in the UK. I’ve been a fan of them since 2004. They’ve never been as popular as One Direction, but they sell out arenas and everyone in the UK knows who they are and knows their music. They have fans all over the world but it’s more online, I think. They’ve never really played across the pond!

              • I don’t remember too much of Season 2 of VD. Season 3 I remember because of Caroline and Klaus a lot. I can’t wait for you to watch it.

                Hold on a second…did one of the members of McFly date one of The Saturdays members? I now remember the name Mcfly associated with Frankie from The Saturdays. I’ll look them up sometime. Do you have any specific track recommendations from them?

  2. I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book and was drawn in by the title, but reading this review has pretty much solidified for me that I wouldn’t enjoy this kind of book. While I’m on tumblr and into all my fandoms, I’m also an extremely social and involved person at my university. I don’t think I’ll be able to relate to the main character – if anything, I’ll just be frustrated by her because I truly do not understand when people sacrifice real life experiences to go on the internet. Does Cath experience character development, or is she still a shut-in at the end of the book? I really wanted to read it, but I’m just not sure it’s going to be something I enjoy.

    • Oh she definitely develops and overcomes some of the anxiety she feels at the beginning of the book (plus Reagan, Wren, Levi and Cath’s Dad all do their bit to encourage her to be a bit more social while also encouraging her to be herself) but she doesn’t undergo a complete transformation, which I feel is realistic.

  3. Fangirl is probably my favourite book of all time. I’ve been re-reading it today and I fall in love with it a little bit more every time. And Levi…don’t even go there! *swoons*
    I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Stacey! Great review! :D

  4. Ahhh! I’m dying to read this one. I only sort of skimmed your review so that I can go into fairly fresh, but Ive heard too many good things about it already. My expectations are skyhigh at this point!

  5. Fantastic review, I know exactly what you mean with your last point! I too, am the second type of fangirl, which is why I have not yet picked up Fangirl. Still, I love books about fangirls and might order it from the library :)

  6. I’m *so* glad you read this, though I am sad you skimmed some of the fanfic bits and did not appreciate that aspect :P But, as you mentioned, I do totally understand why.

    Cait x

  7. Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed the book overall! I can totally understand why you didn’t give this book five stars because it seems like a lot of people felt the same way. I loved the way you described Cath and yes to the usernames thing. Great review!

  8. diffidently in my to read list thanks :)

  9. Great review! :) I’m thinking of picking this one up soon, especially after I read Eleanor & Park, also by Rainbow Rowell. Have you read it? (It was amazing!)

  10. Looks good. i’ve been trying to read rainbow rowell for a while. eleanor and parks as well as fangirl are at the top of my list. Awesome review.

  11. I love this book as well!

  12. This book had me fangirling over it! I’ve never read a contemporary YA novel that pulled me into the plot as much as this one did. I’m a Fangirl, too, and also a writer, so I felt like this would be my life next year (when I go to college!).
    Here’s the full review on my blog: http://geekie-chic.blogspot.in/2013/12/fangirl-by-rainbow-rowell-book-review.html

  13. […] Prettybooks’ review: “Fangirl is one of the most wonderful, accomplished, authentic YA contemporary novels I’ve come across.”  Chick Loves Lit’s review: “This is one of those books that you will pick up and read and from the first chapter you’ll think to yourself, I wouldn’t mind reading this… for forever.”  Jenna Does Books’ review: “FANGIRL is sure to please current fans of her books, as well as draw in potential new readers.”  […]

  14. […] Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for people who spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet, who do not distinguish between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends, and for whom ‘the fandom’ does not need explaining. (Review) […]

  15. […] Prettybooks’ review: “Fangirl is one of the most wonderful, accomplished, authentic YA contemporary novels I’ve come across.” Chick Loves Lit’s review: “This is one of those books that you will pick up and read and from the first chapter you’ll think to yourself, I wouldn’t mind reading this… for forever.” Jenna Does Books’ review: “FANGIRL is sure to please current fans of her books, as well as draw in potential new readers.”  […]

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