Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In short:

Fangirl is about Cath, a freshman in college who is on her own for the first time. Her twin sister is the outgoing one and Cath in shy and more introverted. Cath is also obsessed with Simon Snow (basically harry potter). If you love to read, know what the word fandom means, have ever looked at fanfiction, felt awkward about new situations in college or consider yourself shy in any way I guarantee you’ll be able to relate to this book and it’s a really great read. True Cath is an extreme when it comes to her shyness (a whole month to get to the dining hall?) but it really is a feel good story that anyone who considered themselves the least bit shy, introverted or nerdy will love!

The long story (spoilers ahead!):

So we start with poor Cath who just sort of gets dumped at school and then her dad goes off to help get her sister Wren get set up. And right away it’s obvious that Cath is shy and introverted while Wren is outgoing. So I immediately relate with Cath. Because moving in my freshman year I was so nervous. Would I make friends? Who would I sit with in the dining hall? Would I be able to find my way around? And while I don’t think I was as bad as Cath (I didn’t avoid the dining hall for an entire month) I was always nervous and self conscious of everything.

The other level I’m sure lots of people who read this can relate to Cath is she’s in a fandom. And of course we’re always a little nervous to let people see how much we can geek out on them but 2 of my best friends in college I have met bonding over how much we love Game of Thrones and Sarah J Maas books and now we all watch The 100, Outlander and GOT together, go to the bookstore and pin all over each others nerd boards with LOTR and fangirl pins.
So anyway, about 30 pages into this book I was hooked. Cath writes fan fiction, something I’ve never personally done but I admit it I’ve read it so I can relate. This whole book just gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Watching Cath feel awkward about everything, seeing her start to figure things out.

I love Regan and how this person who she thought was big and scary takes her under her wing. I love her sarcasm in how she always calls her pathetic but goes out of her way to open her up to new experiences. One of my favorite lines she has is “But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box” (290). The whole situation is a little awkward until we find out that Regan really is done with Levi but I love the way she stands by Cath during the romantic drama. I love how everyone in this books is done in extremes. Cath is the extreme nerd, Levi is the extremely nice and outgoing person who says hi to everyone and Regan is the extremely confident, strong, girl who is scary just because she is fearless.

I totally called that Nick was going to steal their story for the final project. I actually expected him to just hand it in without telling her but I do appreciate that he asked. At first it seems like he’s going to be set up as part of a love triangle but once he declined to walk her home I was positive he was just using her to edit his work and help him with his story. What a slime ball. One of my favorite scenes was the only time we see Nick in the spring semester. I love the way Wren and Regan both act like body guards and are totally there for Cath, and then the fact that Levi appears makes it that much better. But I also love how we finally see Cath stand up for herself. When Nick wanted to use her story she didn’t know how to say no but this time she puts her foot down. She doesn’t yell, or cry she just tells him how she feels and then when it seems like he’s going to push back to much I love the way Rowell mentions how her whole support group rallies around her. She steps back into Levi, Regan kicks the door open more (of course she “kicks” it) and Wren pushes her through the door.

I really thought it was interesting that Cath was a twin because that puts a whole new dynamic into the story, especially since one is looking to be independent and the other is not. The backstory with their parents was also another interesting added twist, with the mother abandoning them and their father having some mental health issues. It just gave the story more layers that people could possibly relate to and just gave the story a lot more depth.

Honestly one of my favorite things was when we finally figured out why her name was Cather. Because is did strike me as a very odd name. When Levi called her Catherine and she mentioned that’s not even her name I wondered why anyone would ever name their kid Cather. And then Wren solved the big mystery that twins were not expected and so Catherine became Cather and Wren (I think Cath got the short end of the stick on that one).

When Cath is home for winter break and telling her dad she doesn’t want to go back for spring semester I think we can all relate a little. Everyone has a point in college where all they want to do is be home. One thing I was confused about when they’re home for winter break was what happened with Cath’s writing assignment. In the hospital she mentions she has 31 hours left to get it in, and then that’s the last mention of it until she discovers she got an incomplete in the class.

In the second half of the book I was happy to see Levi and Cath work things out quickly because I hate when a rift in the romance gets dragged out for the entire book. One thing I thought was a little dragged out was the fiction writing assignment. I like that Levi thinks Cath is crazy for just “not doing it” because that is crazy. She then goes ahead and writes a prize winning story just like that. I’m a little bummed she never shared much of the story or content with us. I also don’t really like how we never see her develop past her writers block. She just sits down and the way she describes writing it is like she doesn’t really care about the piece and then of course it wins the award.

Another think I would have like to know is how Carry On ends. Did she kill Baz? But I suppose her getting over this obsession with finishing the story is part of her character development.

Overall I loved this book. And it wasn’t just the story. A lot of the time you love the characters and the world so much (especially in fantasy) that when it’s over you want to read the next one because you don’t want to leave the characters behind. Now I don’t know if it was because this book was about a writer and writing that had me noticing it more but during the book all I could think was how much I also loved the writing style and how the lines were written. I love Rowell’s style and the way she writes and I’ve never really finished a book and thought “I’m so excited to read more of this author”. Normally I would think “I need more of these characters” or “of this world” or “of this story”. (yes I know I have the author to thank for the characters and the world but just the fact that I’m thinking about the author’s writing style and how much I enjoy their choices is different for me). And I know that this is the end and I don’t care because I enjoyed the style so much that I’m sure I’ll enjoy something else she’s written.

I give Fangirl a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads hands down. Once I picked it up I could not put it down and it was such an enjoyable read but also touched on so many deep subjects like anxiety, mental health and abandonment but was also just a great story about finding yourself.

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