Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell {Book Review}

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Series: Standalone

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: 9-10-13

Pages: 433

Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, “Coming of Age”

Source: Gifted

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. 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.

My Review

Hmm. I was worried about reading this, because of all the hype. Even though I’m not the hugest fan of contemporary young adult (although I’d argue that this is actually New Adult), there are certain authors and styles of writing that I do enjoy a lot. From what I’ve heard about this book, I was totally expecting to love it. Out of all of the new books I got for Christmas and my birthday, this was the one I chose to read first. I thought that it was going to be an all-time favorite, but unfortunately I just didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. I hate being this person, this reader, this reviewer…I hate being the downer who doesn’t like books that other people love, so this review is hard for me to write. It took me a couple days to force myself into writing it, actually. But even though I didn’t love this book, I did like it, so I hope my review reflects that.

My favorite part of the book was Levi’s character. I loved how the author didn’t make him this totally hot, swoon-worthy, stereotypical guy. I ended up falling for him, but it took me a while to get to know him and open up to him. He’s not super pretty, he’s not super smart, and he’s not a virgin…but he’s clever, optimistic, sweet, funny, and lovable all in his own peculiar way. I also liked Reagan, Cath’s roommate. She was surprisingly funny and also a little bit bitchy, but she was interesting and I enjoyed reading all of the scenes she was in. I liked Cath’s Dad, too — he was a sweetheart — and Cath’s sister was okay. I didn’t love Wren, but I didn’t dislike her either. I thought her storyline was a bit unrealistic and overblown, like she was almost too much of a foil of Cath, but it didn’t bother me that much.

I also really liked the whole fan fiction thing. I don’t know that much about it, and I’ve never read it, so it was interesting to get an idea of what it’s all about and an inside peek at the behind-the-scenes of it all. I thought it was cool how there were passages of the Simon Snow books or Cath’s fan fiction between each chapter, although I’d say that the quantity of those passages did become a little much towards the end of the book, and I found myself skimming over them to get back to the main story.

Mostly, my biggest problem with this novel was Cath. I was expecting this to be a realistic story of a introverted girl’s freshman year at college, because that’s how a lot of people described it. But it really wasn’t realistic at all. She was so shy and unwilling to participate in life that it was kind of off-putting. I couldn’t relate to her, even though I’m introverted and I had a tough freshman year as well. She couldn’t even go to the dining hall by herself? That’s just pathetic and isn’t something that endears me to her. Instead of liking the main character…I pitied her. She didn’t even try.

And then, after all of this, she still has a best friend, a love interest, a professor that adores her, and even a sort-of-kind-of other guy on the side? I just don’t buy it. And it made the book’s message seem to be “don’t worry, even though you’re worried about college so much that you can barely bring yourself to get out of bed…you won’t have to do anything and a handsome boy is going to fall for you, you’ll get thousands of hits on the internet with your fanfiction bestseller, and you’ll totally end up with friends,” because, yeah, that’s what college is like.

I also didn’t like how the novel dealt with the issue of drinking in college. One of the supporting characters goes out drinking a lot and Cath isn’t supportive of that. The character then ends up being punished for her behavior later in a way that I just didn’t believe. People drink in college…it happens. And Cath had an un-accepting attitude towards it that made me like her even less.

It was a cute story, and I enjoyed the relationship between Cath and Levi a lot…but I found it to be very unrealistic in a misleading sort of way that I didn’t appreciate, and I couldn’t identify with the main character at all. There were also a few loose ends that left me wondering what happened after I finished the book. But overall I would still recommend this book…I just don’t think it’s completely deserving of the crazy amount of hype it’s gotten.

My Rating 4 Anchors

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16 responses to “Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell {Book Review}

  1. I’ve been really nervous to read this for the same reason. If you’re so scared of being judged (I guess? I haven’t read it) for being alone in the dining hall, life is going to be tough for you. You have to EAT. You have to go out into the world and learn how to not give a crap about the thoughts of random people.

    This book is on my TBR but I’m really afraid I’ll feel the same as you. Cath just seems so extremely, pathetically shy and it all apparently works out for her.

    • You pretty much hit it right on the nose. I mean, I don’t want to tell you what to read…but, yeah, I thought it was pretty unrealistic in both how extremely shy she was and how she was still able to get friends and a boyfriend (there’s even two guys after her at one point) without ever having to come out of her shell. I just don’t think it did a good job of portraying what college is really like — especially what college is really like for introverted people. So maybe you should stick with your gut on this one!

  2. I enjoyed this book, but I also totally agreed with all of your complaints. Cath couldn’t find the dining hall and didn’t even know there was a second campus? I’m about as introverted as they come, and I don’t buy it.

    • Glad somebody agrees with me about this! I’m introverted and have social anxiety, too…but even I wasn’t that bad in my freshman year of college, haha.

  3. I want to read this so badly! I had my dad get me Eleanor and Park when he was down here, and I have yet to read that.

  4. I actually adored everything about this book, even if Cath’s actions were a bit extreme. I think that while not a huge percentage of freshman are THAT scared, Cath did have so much anxiety that I thought it was believable enough. It wasn’t so much that she couldn’t find the dining hall, it was the thought of actually getting out and finding it that was daunting. Maybe I accept it because I’ve done crazy stuff like that too xD

    Either way, I loved every single part of this book 😀 Sorry it didn’t work as well for you! I wonder if you’ll like Rowell’s Eleanor & Park better?

    • Maybe I would’ve liked it more if I’d read it as a freshman in college or something. I remember having more issues with social anxiety back then, so maybe I would’ve been able to identify with her more. But I definitely can understand WHY people would like this book so much…I don’t know, I guess it’s just one of those “it’s me, not you” things. I still definitely want to read Eleanor & Park, though! It’s on my TBR shelf, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  5. I liked this book SO MUCH, but I can see what you are saying about it being a little unbelievable at times. I appreciated that this book was about college and NOT all about sex. I was super lonely when I first started college, so I guess that’s why I related to Cath. Although yes I still was able to feed myself. But no I never went to the caf by myself… that would have been awkward. My college had other places where you could get food and bring it back to your dorm if you wanted, so that’s what I did. I also put myself out there and ASKED a few girls in my hall if I could go eat with them. You are so right that you are never going to meet anyone unless you try. Maybe the fact that she had a twin made it more believable to me that she never had to try before because she always had that security blanket. I also don’t like when books have to punish characters for drinking or having sex. That definitely wasn’t a favorite part of the story for me. I also HATED the mother and Wren for 99% of the book.

    • Hahaha “yes, I still was able to feed myself.”

      Hmm that’s interesting. I guess that it makes sense with the set-up that you had, but I ate by myself ALL THE TIME my freshman year of college. And it wasn’t like I was the only one doing that. I mean, yeah, I wished that I’d had friends to eat with at first, but even if I did have friends, it wasn’t a guarantee that we’d have the same schedule, and you weren’t allowed to take food out of the cafeteria. So I ended up eating by myself fairly often for the first couple months of that year.

      Wow, you asked people if you could eat with them?? I give you props for that! I would’ve much rather just eaten alone! (obviously, haha)

      The twin thing is a good point. Maybe I didn’t really “get” it because I’m an only child. I had to play by myself a lot when I was a kid, and I’ve always been kind of a loner. So even though it was maybe a little embarrassing to eat by myself and I definitely wished that I’d had more friends…I knew that I needed to just do it (vs. trying to survive on granola bars for weeks at a time).

      I know that a lot of people hated Wren, but I really didn’t. I mean, she was a little bit rude to Cath at times, but mostly I thought that she was behaving like a normal college girl. But maybe that’s because I can’t exactly wrap my head around the whole “twins” or “siblings” thing. I guess she should’ve felt more of an obligation towards maintaining a friendship towards Cath? I don’t know. It’s interesting how certain life experiences can kind of alter the way you see characters/situations in books. Like, I didn’t mind Wren because I totally got her perspective, but now that you mention the twin thing, I realize that maybe it’s more complicated than I originally thought. She should’ve helped Cath more because they’re sisters, whereas in my head I think I was looking at it as more of two friends just naturally growing apart…but I guess it’s probably different when it’s sisters, and especially with twins.

      Wow, sorry, that was a super long response, haha. Thanks for commenting!! 🙂

  6. I’m glad you expressed your honest opinion, I know that it’s difficult to say negative things about a popular book, but you always have to be honest with how you feel with your readers, so thanks for that.

    Sorry this book didn’t work out for you! Do you think also it was a case of the hype monster? Maybe too much build up for you? Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks for saying that! I was kind of nervous about posting the review, because I was pretty sure that I was going to get booed or something, haha. But I really do stand by my opinions about this book…and I still gave it a pretty good rating! It just wasn’t the 5++ stars that I’ve seen the majority of other people give it.

      Oh my gosh, the hype surrounding this book was INSANE. I don’t think that I would’ve felt any different about the book had the hype not been so crazy, but it was disappointing to not love it as much as I thought I was going to. I hate being let down by books that I’m looking forward to reading.

  7. I actually can relate to Cath in a way. I was also afraid to brave the cafeteria on my first few weeks of freshman year. I even ate in the bathroom once. In my defense, it was a very clean and empty bathroom. Haha! But I definitely didn’t try the cafeteria until I found someone to go with so I think it can be true for some people. I didn’t really make friends until people approached me. Most of which I wouldn’t really meet had I not taken the same classes or gone to the same required events or whatnot.

    • All of these comments I’m getting from people about Cath’s cafeteria habits are really interesting! Maybe I’m just not as introverted as I think I am, haha. At least now I know that it’s (mostly) an “it’s me, not you” thing, as apparently a lot of people ARE able to relate to Cath in that way. It’s cool to hear the different opinions about that from people. I’m glad you were able to relate to her, though, even though I couldn’t 🙂

  8. I’m really glad for your review after reading all the glowing reviews that my friends have put up. I know what to expect now when I read, and I know that Cath may annoy me at some point, haha.

    As for drinking, I agree with you. People drink in college, it happens. As long as no one gets hurt (including the drinker) and no alcohol problems develop, I don’t think it’s very fair for someone to get all high and mighty about it. I think the only time it should be really of concern is when the person starts developing a drinking problem or really cannot control themselves when drunk.

    • Yeah, I agree with you…it can definitely cross the line. I’m definitely not okay with that. I just felt like the whole alcohol thing was handled really strangely in this book. Cath had such a bad attitude about it and it didn’t really make sense or fit with how college-age kids (even introverted ones) view drinking.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂 I’m glad that my review helped give you an idea of what to expect with Fangirl.

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