Fangirl Book Review

I love reading books, from classics to contemporary literature –– and even YA every now and again. I try to read at least one book every month, and for last month, I chose a book a good friend of mine recommended: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The book is centered around a college freshman named Cath who loves to write FanFiction. It follows her interactions with her twin sister Wren, her roommate (and her roommate’s friends), and students from her classes. 

The novel is aptly titled because Cath is a passionate FanFiction writer. She writes stories based on the fictional Simon Snow series –– which is clearly influenced by Harry Potter, and I appreciated that. 

Cath is a bookish girl who adores writing, and I loved that –– I found her easy to relate to for that reason (and we both just so happen to have brown hair and wear glasses). Given the many relationships Cath develops, maintains, and even avoids, the book’s plot is also very interesting socially. At first, she doesn’t get along with her roommate, but over time they grow on each other, which is moderately common and pretty realistic. She also ends up dating a close male friend –– and ex-boyfriend –– of her roommate. 

The plot includes very real and very upsetting circumstances such as an absent mother and a father with bipolar disorder, as well as a turbulent relationship with her twin sister. These complicated and upsetting family dynamics incorporate a serious element into the otherwise lighthearted story, bringing it into the real world. Rainbow Rowell’s writing allowed me to empathize with Cath, her father, and family; I was saddened by her mother’s absence and her father’s struggles. Cath, as well as Wren, are such well-developed characters that I felt connected enough to worry about them when they were going through a difficult time, or when something upsetting happened to them.

I understood and related to a lot of Cath’s experiences because, as a college sophomore, freshman year is recent history for me. However, in a lot of ways, I felt that Cath was too scared and a little bit immature. For example, she chose to become involved in a romantic relationship and she let it frighten her too much. It’s ok to feel a little uncertain about some things while first beginning to date, but given the fact that she experienced somewhat of a first relationship in high school, I felt that she was entirely too tentative and afraid of affection given that she actually liked the boy who asked her out. 

Cath’s intelligence, dedication to writing, and ultimately successful search for direction gives the book a subtle feminist undertone, but I feel like the book missed out some opportunities for some true, strong female empowerment. Cath was weak in a lot of ways, and she knew it; I would have liked to see her overcome her weakness and stand up for herself, particularly when her writing professor accuses her of plagiarism when she hands in a FanFiction story. 

I also thought that Cath was too afraid to leave her room and balance new experiences with her writing. To grow, you have to go outside of your comfort zone a little and try new things. However, I understand how it felt to hardly ever leave your room because freshman year I struggled a fair amount socially, so I spent a lot of time alone. What’s different about Cath is that she had the choice –– her roommate invited her to go out a few times –– and she usually declined.

Overall, I think Fangirl is a well-written book because I’m still wondering how Cath is doing now. If you like young adult stories, FanFiction, and socially realistic books, I would definitely recommend picking it up.