Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

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?

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

There are extracts from the Simon Snow stories and from Cath and Wren’s fan fiction between each chapter. I didn’t mind that too much, though I think it would have been better if they related to the chapters more. The sections where Cath reads one of her stories to Levi were really too long though. I got really bored during those sections and didn’t really feel it added that much to the story.

It was also a shame in a way that Cath was portrayed as being so perfect when it comes to writing. Her fan fiction ‘Carry On, Simon’ is read by thousands of people. She can’t even keep up with all the comments on her chapters. In a particularly cringe scene someone in the library starts talking to Cath about ‘Carry On, Simon’ without realising she’s talking to the writer, and Cath pretends to just be a reader. There are tonnes of people out there who write fan fiction and no one reads it, or some people read it, maybe quite a lot of people read it. Why does Cath have to be the ultimate Simon Snow fan fiction writer? It maybe would have been more realistic if she’d written a disappointing chapter at some point or if she didn’t have quite so many followers, but she manages to write the most amazing fan fiction that all her readers are obsessed with. Oh and she manages to turn in a piece for her fiction writing course that turns out amazing even though she writes it really last minute. Also there isn’t really any explanation as to how she magically managed to end up on that advanced course.

Overall I think the problem I had with Fangirl is that not enough happens. It feels very flat because the pacing is so similar all the way through. There’s no rise and fall. No tension. No stakes. I know it’s not an action-packed fantasy adventure, but it still has to have tension. Something still needs to happen to keep the reader engaged. It was also very long. The story could have been told in less pages and I perhaps would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so dragged out.

This isn’t necessarily a bad book. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll probably enjoy it. There are plenty of Fangirl fans out there. This book just wasn’t for me.                                 

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