BOOK REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FANGIRL is a story about Cath, a reclusive young adult, going to university and becoming distanced from her Dad, her twin and her ‘boyfriend’, the only people she felt she ever needed. It charters her journey through her first year as she, a well-known fanfiction author, discovers how to survive at college – and if she can manage.

Fangirl. A book about the transition from teenager to adult. It bridges the gap between young adult and adult fiction and encapsulates the feeling of leaving home for the first time.

I picked up Fangirl already familiar with the work of Rainbow Rowell from her best seller, Eleanor and Park. I knew I’d like the sharp writing, and enlightening inner narrative of her scarily realistic characters. I just didn’t know how much I’d love Cath, Levi, Wren or even Reagan.

Fangirl on the bookshelf

Fangirl on the bookshelf

There is a cliché in book reviews – “I really identified with [insert character here]” – that I try to avoid; as much as I love to get lost in a book, I always remain aware of my existence as an entity separate to that of the author’s reality. However, it was impossible to not feel like Cath was actually written based on my life.

“I just got here. Most of my friends went to other schools. Or they’re online.”

The idea that someone with Cath’s disposition (and penchant for fanfiction) can survive at University is exactly what prompted me to take a step back from the laptop and take the plunge by firming up my accommodation at Exeter. To a lot of people, that isn’t a big step but I cannot stress enough how anxious it made me.

“Tell me why you’re so unhappy.”
“It’s just…everything.There are too many people.And I don’t fit in.I don’t know how to be.”

My younger sister and I may not be twins (she’s 18 months younger and 18 times prettier) but we’re pretty close. In fact both if my sisters are my best friends. Just like Cath’s feelings about being separated from Wren, I hate the thought of leaving Gemma and Holly behind to go to the other side of the country. In England, a 4 hour car journey is a considerable distance.

“Months are different in college, especially freshman year. Too much happens. Every freshman month equals six regular months—they’re like dog months.”

But Cather resolves her problems in the form of managing her anxiety. She befriends people and finds a certain kind of love, which is incredibly beautiful and really inspires hope.

Fangirl left me so emotionally wrought that I swore to myself I’d wait a month before reviewing it. One month later and I’m still stunned. I know that this is one novel that will stay with me no matter where I move; Exeter or the end of the Earth.

I hate creasing the spines of books or damaging them in any way but my favourites are dog-eared and faded from continued re-reading. Perhaps I’ll buy another copy of Fangirl for show, because this one will become as well-worn and well-loved as my childhood favourites. There is a UK special edition hardback that I’m eyeing up, if anyone wants to buy it for me…?



And, as I tweeted @rainbowrowell herself; if they make Fangirl into a film, I’m going to be first in line for the auditions.




Hannah Guest, of Tea For Hannah, said:

“It’s so relatable. It brings out everyone’s inner nerd. A truly beautiful novel.”

Amy Crumpton said:

“Relatable, funny and just plain amazing! It’s my new favourite book.”


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