The one thing you need to know about a Rainbow Rowell book before going in is that you are about to experience something special. Eleanor & Park was my first experience with Rowell’s books and set the bar rather high as to my expectations. As you can imagine, I went into Fangirl, Rowell’s ‘New Adult’ book with all sorts of hopes and ideas of what to expect. Thankfully, Rowell has this magical sort of way with words and was easily able to soar over my expectations with flying colors. I cannot praise Fangirl enough, in fact, I am about to say the same thing every other reviewer has said about this book — I want to ‘fangirl’ all over it. That is how much I love it, so much so that I have become a cliche.
Cath is about to start her freshman year of college, living a few hours away from her Omaha home. Unfortunately, she is in for some bad news. Her twin sister Wren has announced that she will not be rooming with Cath. You see, Cath had imagined a freshman year filled with co-writing fics with her sister. After all, Cath is a BNF (big name fan) in the Simon Snow fandom. Her Simon Snow slash-fic received tens of thousands of views. However, to meet Cath you would not know that she is such a big deal. She suffers from crippling social anxiety, whereas her sister Wren is typically the life of the party. To make matters even worse, Cath’s roommate Regean is really mean. Also? Her boyfriend Levi is there ALL OF THE TIME. Oh yeah, and Cath’s creative writing professor thinks fanfiction is plagiarism. It is shaping up to be quite the rough semester for Fangirl‘s main character.
There is absolutely no way possible for me to NOT like Cather ‘Cath’ Avery. She is such a nerd and quite unrepentant about her penchant for geeky t-shirts, cardigans, and glasses. Yet, she feels like more than a caricature. She carries around this anxiety that feels so very real. There’s a scene where she talks about being afraid to go to the dining hall alone because she thinks people will be watching her and criticizing her. She gets nervous about going to class. She hasn’t seen certain parts of campus because they are a bit off her beaten path. She doesn’t make friends easily. Frankly, if you are an introvert, you might really relate to Rainbow Rowell’s latest protagonist. The entire time though, instead of being irritated with Cath for having all these issues, I found myself rooting for her. She’s just real and raw and written in a way that lets it all hang out.
What I really and truly love about Rainbow Rowell’s books is that she lets nice guys finish first. Instead of celebrating arrogance, outlaws, and borderline rude behavior, the love interests are often kind, considerate, and genuine people. Fangirl is definitely no exception. I won’t tell you who the love interest is because it is kind of a surprise, or at least it was to me. Perhaps I am oblivious. However, I will say that you will find yourself shipping the two almost immediately. Cath’s love interest does things like walk her home late at night. He drives her places at a moment’s notice. He has his faults as well, and they are real faults. Just know that there is a lot of depth and development in Fangirl’s romance. Think the definition of a slow burn or of carrying a torch for someone. Rowell has basically unlocked the perfection level with this book. Seriously Cath and her romantic interest might as well be my new OTP (one true pairing, FYI).
Rowell excels not just at romantic intimacy but also at detailing familial relationships. First, there is Cath’s relationship with her sister Wren. The two have always been close. Lately though, Wren makes Cath feel as though she is a burden. She seems to have no time for Cath and is spending all her free time with sorority girl Courtney or out drinking. Cath doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand why Wren would rather drink than write Simon Snow and Baz fics with her. Fangirl does a superb job navigating the tenuous bond between sisters. This is not the only family layer in the book though. There is also the relationship between Cath and her ad executive father. You see, her father is the sole caretaker of the girls. Mom peaces out when they were kids. Yet, Dad is not quite perfect. He has very manic moments and well, there’s some mental illness there. Yet, it’s dealt with in such a respectful, realistic way. Then, of course, there are Cath’s unresolved feelings over her mother. This will play an important role. Personally, I loved Rowell’s exploration of the ties that bind, so to speak.
I had planned to write a paragraph about Simon Snow, the fictitious magic wielder. However, I think I will just leave it at the fact that Snow is a fun tip of the hat to Harry Potter, but with vampires. Also? Rowell includes excerpts from the Simon Snow books and from Cath’s fanfictions between chapters, adding to the overall authenticity and feel of the book.
I feel like I could read books about the rest of Cath’s college career, I was so riveted by Fangirl. Everything is wrapped up perfectly in this book though. There’s the right amount of character growth and development. There are swoons. There is family drama. Rowell captures what it’s like to be an anxious college freshman. Every character within the book has an interesting arc. Fangirl will certainly have you shipping your favorite characters and cheering for what is canon in Rowell’s book.
Disclosure: Review Copy Obtained Via Amazon Vine