Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlSigh.

I wanted to love this book. I expected to love it. I’ve done my fair share of fangirling. Or at least, for a while I considered myself “active” in the Glee fandom. I wrote fanfic (and read tons of it), had a Tumblr, talked to other fans online, etc. It was fun. (It was also terrible, because Glee is terrible, but wonderfully terrible–I can’t explain. If you were unlucky enough to be sucked into the Glee fandom, you know what I mean.)

I’ve also read a lot of fanfiction without considering myself active in the fandom: Wicked, Harry Potter, Frozen, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings. So, yeah. I guess that should be embarrassing, but whatev. I don’t see anything wrong with loving characters/a world so much that you want to keep writing or reading about it in whatever way possible.

From what I’ve heard, some real-life fangirls were offended by the main character in Fangirl. Cath, an introverted college freshman, is obsessed with the Simon Snow book series (which is pretty transparently based on the Harry Potter series). She is the author of a very popular fanfic, Carry On, Simon, which has tens of thousands of followers. She spends much of her time sitting in her dorm room, ignoring the world in favor of the world of Simon Snow. From what I’ve gathered, the real-life fangirls think that Cath perpetuates the “weird, unsocial nerd” stereotype of a fanfic writer. I think it makes her more relatable.

In short, Cath has a twin sister, Wren, who has kind of ditched her to live a party lifestyle; an awesome and manic dad; and a mom who abandoned her and Wren when they were eight years old. Cath has anxiety and abandonment issues, is very shy and awkward, and is falling for her roommate’s ex-boyfriend, Levi. She’s in an upper-level fiction writing course, but she feels unable to write anything that’s not fanfic. She wants to spend all of her time working on Carry On, Simon.

There’s not a whole lot of plot to this book. It is more of a character study–the characters are really well developed, relatable, and complex. But no matter how much I could identify with Cath, she is boring. (Realizing I may have just called myself boring…anyway.) She doesn’t do anything. She is so timid and takes things sooo slowly with Levi that it nearly killed me. Overall, I thought the book was too long. Over 400 pages? For this first-love story? I got bored. And I wanted more Wren. I found their relationship (and all their family dynamics) far more interesting than the relationship that unfolds between Cath and Levi.

There were a couple other little things that bothered me. The short little excerpts from the Simon stories in between chapters added nothing, and obviously I’ve never read the (nonexistent) books, so I wasn’t interested in them. I also hated every time Cath sat down to read long excerpts from her own fanfic aloud to Levi. Again, I don’t know the whole story, so I felt like it was unnecessary. I also had trouble getting over the blatant Harry Potter parallels.

All of this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. I wanted to know what was going to happen (mostly with her family, not so much with Levi). It was a really nice coming-of-age story. I just felt it was too detailed and drawn-out.

I know a lot of people really love it, so I’d never say it’s not worth a try!

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4 thoughts on “Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I was a fic writer in my younger years as well. I didn’t think Cath perpetuated any negative stereotypes and I did find her relatable. I agree about the exerts from the Simon Snow book. I think Rowell was so involved in the story that she wanted to add them and did. She’s coming out with a Simon Snow novel in the near future so it seems writing those inspired her a lot.

    Thanks for reviewing!

  2. I definitely agree with you – it’s totally character-driven, and if you don’t like the characters, you just won’t like the book. I didn’t like the Cath at all! haha soooo… I wasn’t a fan of the book.

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