Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell


A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

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?

My Thoughts

Fangirl is just as adorable as it can be heartbreaking. What starts as a seemingly typical coming-of-age story takes its twists and turns eloquently, leading readers down a very real, very dramatic road. A road not unfamiliar to many people. A very real road about the first steps of “adulting” and how to cope with said “adulting”.

Cath and Wren are twins. While incredibly similar, they couldn’t be any more different. Wren is more outgoing, more spontaneous, and presents herself more confidently. Cath is more introverted, more likely to prefer to be on her own, and much prefers staying in her comfort zone. As we see both sisters come to terms with what it means to be adults – or, college freshman, rather – we follow them through both good and bad times.

Written from Cath’s perspective, we also see a world where the love of fiction can completely take over. This is a world I’m familiar with. A world where someone has created characters – people – and settings. A world with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. A world where we fall head-first into newness and excitement, everything else cast aside as we’re immersed into this story that is not our own, but that we are very much a part of. That is the absolute joy of fiction – whatever its representation. In this world, we are whoever we want to be, reality be damned. It’s a nice world, a cozy world, in which we are not active participants, but rather incredible observers. It’s easy to get wrapped up in it, and become exceedingly comfortable in this world – and Cath shows us just how comfortable she is in her world of fanfiction writing.

Cath is most comfortable in her own world of fandom. And this makes her the most relatable protagonist I’ve come across in a long time. She immerses herself into creating new adventures for her favourite characters by diving headfirst into fanfiction – and, apparently, being really, really good at it, if her hit counts are anything to go by.

Setting aside an intense debate as to preferences for fanfiction, or its literary merits, or the grey area of plagiarism (all of these things can be discussed in a different environment not befitting this book review), Cath struggles with the balancing act of keeping up her fanfiction story, her personal life, and her academic life – said academic life proving to challenge her in ways she thought she was ready for, but isn’t. She comes to grips with that, eventually, and how she gets there is a very real journey of self-discovery and growth. Not only is her character extremely relatable, she feels very, very real, she feels approachable, which is something I have come to enjoy immensely. When a character feels real to me, I know I’m in the right story.

This struggle for balance, and change, and growth, and coming to grips with difficulties and hardships is extremely familiar to any number of college/university students. This is what makes this book so good. It is a realistic interpretation of being new to adulthood, new to college, and new to so many people and experiences, and just not knowing how to deal with all that. Cath copes by writing fanfiction of her favourite characters from her favourite series of books. And what happens in between allows Cath, and Wren, to grow both individually, and together as sisters.

Fangirl starts as a typical coming-of-age story, but ends as an adventure in its own right. I remembered what it’s like to fall in love with a world that isn’t my own, and I remembered that it’s okay to be immersed in a different world, with its unique settings and characters. While simple fiction to some, sometimes, these worlds are very real to me. And they are as near and dear to me as the real world and people around me are. And that’s okay.


~ by Aubrey Smith on November 3, 2015.

2 Responses to “Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell”

  1. I’m a huge Rainbow Rowell fan. I loved your review! Very descriptive and interesting.

  2. […] The story of Simon Snow comes straight from the story of Fangirl (my review can be found here). Fangirl introduces us to these lovable characters in the periphery. Carry On gives us a rich, […]

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