Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publication Info: St. Martin’s Press, 2013
Synopsis: A devoted fangirl and fanfiction writer, Cath must come to terms with adulthood and independence, anxiety, and her evolving relationships with her twin sister, terrifying roommate, and classmates in her first year of college.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Let me say that I rarely consider a book to truly deserve such a high rating. I most often give this rating during the aftereffects of finishing a great book — the “book high,” if you will — or because I ignore or overlook the tiny flaws I noticed while reading. However, it has been quite a while since I finished this book (weeks, even, thanks to my proclivity to apathy and procrastination), yet I still feel that this book deserves a perfect rating. Why? Because Fangirl is the perfect blend of teen and adult content, wit and humor, sadness and emotion, and fantastic writing. I think everyone should give this book a try, or at least read the synopsis, because even if it is outside your interest type, it is a wonderful book.
The storyline and plot development of this book is different from others in the teen category, in that most teen books set up a quest or goal for the main character(s) to achieve in the first few chapters, with side plots and events merely adding to the main plot. Fangirl, however, does not really follow this trend, as Rainbow Rowell chooses instead to follow Cath’s life and growth throughout her first year of college. Because the quest plot trend has become so ingrained in me from reading so many teen fantasy novels, I admit I was thrown off by this at the start. But looking back, I really appreciate Rowell’s choice in this, because it shows that the real goal is for Cath to grow and change and accept herself, rather than win a boyfriend or become popular. And this, to me, is what life and college are really like, so when you read this book, you are reading real life experiences.
Seriousness aside, the romance in this book is by far one of the most perfect and well-written relationships I’ve ever encountered. Here are the five reasons why: (1) awkwardness, (2) tension, (3) fighting/misunderstandings, (4) slow development, (5) actual chemistry. If you want to know what real romantic relationships are like, look no further than this book.
Finally, I tremendously appreciated the ending of this book. I won’t spoil anything, but Rowell doesn’t spell out everything in Cath’s future for the reader, which in this book did not seem necessary. Personally, it meant that it was enough that Cath had grown and changed, and while she still had things to learn and do, we are given confidence that she can handle them. This is genius to me.
If it feels like I’m fangirling and raving over this book, you may want to skip over this portion, because I can do nothing but rave over the characters in this book.
Cath is such a relatable protagonist to me, as she struggles with shyness, anxiety, and the inability to connect with others — all things I have struggled with and continue to deal with on a daily basis. While some may not be able to relate to her position as a fanfiction writer and devoted fan of Simon Snow, her personality traits are enough to make her frustrating and realistic in the most endearing way possible. (So many times I wanted to shake Cath and yell at her, only to realize I did the same things in college.)
I’ve already ranted about the romance of the novel, but allow me to briefly say that Levi, Cath’s romantic interest, is so lovable and interesting and intriguing. Yet another point for Rowell.
Even the smaller characters of this book read like authentic, real people to me, such as Wren, Cath’s father, Reagan, Nick, etc. Every character reminds me of people I have met and known, which is a feat of great writing to me.
I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the writing or quality of this novel as a whole. Everything is well-developed, well-timed, and well-written.
Who I recommend this to:
- Fans of John Green’s novels
- Realistic fiction readers
- Romance readers
- Soon-to-be or current college students
- High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, mentions of sex, drugs, alcohol)