Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 433 pages
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?
To say that this book received a lot of hype wouldn’t be accurate- around BookTube, it received more hype than nearly any book I’ve seen. It’s understandable, why this contemporary piece would appeal to the book community- it’s about the fandom, something we understand practically more than anything. With fangirls and fanboys alike eagerly anticipating this work, curious to the representation of fans that Rowell would set for us, Fangirl had a lot going for it even before it was released.
The question is whether or not Fangirl lived up to the high expectations that were set for it.
Packaging: 5/5 Stars. The packaging is a solid five stars, hands down. Look at it- it’s adorable! It’s the kind of cover that would make you want to buy it, even if you didn’t know anything about the book. Looking to both Eleanor & Park and Attachments, Rainbow Rowell’s books are definitely alluring when it comes to the packaging. The feel of the book’s sleeve is very nice, it’s almost silicon-esque.
Writing Style: 4/5 Stars. I enjoy Rowell’s writing style, I really do. It’s alluring and easy to read, and consistent. However, I did have a slight problem with the writing style of this book. With the introduction of a chapter, readers would be given a selection from the Simon Snow series, which is to Cath what Harry Potter is to readers. I understand that Rowell was trying to write the Simon Snow books different from her own writing style, to emphasize that this is the fictional series that Cath so absorbs herself in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly enjoyable to me. I found it a bit difficult to get through, however, I did enjoy reading selections from Cath’s fanfictions- it gave us a chance to hear her.
Characters: 4.5/5 Stars. No matter the problems that a reader may have with a character, it has to be said that Rainbow Rowell is not only incredible at creating a solid protagonist figure, but is also extremely skilled at creating vibrant background or side characters. From Cath’s father, to her sister, Wren, to Levi, to Reagan- all these characters have a voice, and are extremely strong in their presence throughout the book. The only reason why I had to dock .5 points is that I found myself getting a bit fed up with Cath’s passive personality and behavior, as well as her complete reluctance to get involved in her own life. However, it wasn’t a major problem for me, because the presence of anxiety was clear throughout the book, and I understood that it wasn’t necessarily something she could control. Cath had many person-vs-self dilemmas throughout the book, and although her behavior often results in pure exasperation from the reader, it’s not something that we can harshly critique her for.
Plot: 3.8/5 Stars. I wouldn’t necessarily give the plot a 3.5, but I wouldn’t give it a 4, either- a 3.8, which translates into a shaky 4 stars, sounds about right. I found that, although it’s clear that this contemporary is a coming of age novel that follows Cath’s transition into her college life, as well as many other things, the plot had a tendency to waver throughout the book. The entire book could feel a bit anti-climatic at times, which is understandable, but also could grow to be boring. A clear transition of Cath’s journey outside her comfort zone, and her truly “coming of age”, hence the label, couldn’t really be found. It was a bit subtle, which bothered me. Also, the ending fell short. I felt that there were so many loose ends left untied, and it wasn’t satisfying to me. I didn’t end this book with closure.
Overall: 3.5/5 Stars. Fangirl merits a strong 3.5 stars. Though I wasn’t as blown away as I expected I would be, it was still a book that kept me up late at night reading. The highlight of this book would definitely be in the vibrancy of the characters- from Reagan, a snarky roommate with a lot of heart, Levi, a total sweetie, Cath’s sister Wren, who learns that it’s okay to hold on, and Cath herself, who learns how to reach out and grasp things that had always been an acre outside her comfort zone. If there is anything final to be said about Fangirl, it is that Rainbow Rowell did an outstanding job in showing us that Simon Snow is more than just Cath’s obsession- it’s her anchor, which is what books are to so many of us.