Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Posted January 6, 2014 by chooseyabooks in reviews / 0 Comments

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date:  30th January 2014 (paperback)/ 10th September 2013 (ebook)
Format: Paperback
Source: Free ecopy from publishers as competition prize
Also by this author: Eleanor & Park, Attachments (non-YA)

Goodreads Description: Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate 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. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible.

Review: Fangirl appealed to me for a number of reasons: the fact everyone was talking about Rowell’s last book Eleanor & Park, the summary and the fact it involved starting university without seeming to fall into some of the cliches a lot of books about that can by only being about the romance, and the fact Wren wrote fanfic, something I hadn’t seen explored much before in fiction.

Cath and her twin Wren have bonded over their love of the Simon Snow series for years. Now with the final book coming out and Cath’s fanfiction Carry On reaching almost meteoric levels of popularity, they are starting university. However Wren has chosen to live in a separate dorm and Cath has to navigate college, new friends, Carry On and independence without much of her sister.

Fangirl works on a number of levels and it made it a hard book to summarise in one paragraph. On one hand it’s classic rites of passage; Cath is carving out her own identity as both a person and a writer. It’s about writing and fandom and the community and belonging that can bring. It’s about college and the weirdness and new friends and romantic possibilities. And it’s about family too.

Fangirl for me was also enhanced by its links to popular fandoms like Harry Potter. While Simon Snow is something entirely different, as a Potter fan I noticed Easter egg references, like the school in Watford where the HP Studios are, and little things like that really added to my enjoyment. The extracts of both Simon Snow and Cath’s fanfic worked seamlessly with the story and plot.

The slow-build friendships between Levi, Cath and her roommate were wonderful to read. However for me what makes Fangirl really stand out is the fact Cath has a family and they serve and add to the plot. Her father and his bi-polar disorder, Wren’s own issues throughout the book and Cath’s virtually non-existent relationship with her mother made this more than a book about a girl writing fanfiction at college. It made that girl alive beyond the page.

There is so much I could talk about in this review: just how much I loved Levi, how much it resonated with me and how certain moments really reminded me of my own experiences and starting university, but I won’t. Instead I will just say that this book gave me the feels, that I think it’s pretty special. It’s the sort of book I’d quite to give to some of my friends from university who probably don’t read YA and wouldn’t seek a book like this out so I can share those feels with them.

I truly, truly adored this book. I’ve reread it several times since first reading it which says a lot and every time I still enjoy it just as much as the first time.

I received a free ecopy from the publishers as a Twitter competition prize. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I receive the book.

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