A review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Reviewed by Emily McDonell

by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN-13 : 978-1250030955, Hardcover : 448 pages, 10 September 2013

‘So, you haven’t read the books.’
‘I’m not really a book person’
‘That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me.’

Rowell’s novel Fangirl demonstrates beautifully the characteristics of introverts and extroverts alike whilst still maintaining an incredibly unique writing style. Although, Fangirl’s plot and overall summary may sound cliché to some, the author’s complex characters, themes and development are flawless as with all her young adult stories in particular Eleanor and Park.

Identical twins, Cath and Wren – both about to experience college – after spending their lives together Cath finds it hard to see Wren enjoying parties, meeting new people and finding friends so naturally. Cath, our protagonist, is seemingly opposite to Wren with her ever-growing collection of fanfiction much more interesting than her own life. So, when Cath slowly starts meeting new people and truly experiencing her new, independent life, she discovers more about love, loss and family.

The writer has also included a faux Harry Potter universe of which Cath’s fanfic is centred around. Cath’s love for these books is reflected in Fangirl and the connection between her love of the Simon Snow books and her childhood relationships with her sister, I found really added to the overall plot and Cath’s character development. 

One distinct element of all the author’s books I adore is the growth of each of the characters. Cath and Wren’s journey throughout their college semesters I believe will resonate with many readers. 

I find most readers relate to Cath, predominately, and this is why Fangirl is such a powerful contemporary novel – the audience can relate to the characters and their experiences. As with Cath who is quiet, socially awkward and afraid of allowing herself to leap into new experiences and opportunities like Wren has. Most can identify with this newfound sense of nervousness and love of a fandom which are a significant part of Cath’s character.

Fangirl highlights the dynamics of relationships between characters as the book progresses and these connections with others are influential in the overall plot of the book. Both family and love are major themes and the way in which Rainbow Rowell has written this is beautiful. The novel is a quick read and not only a perfect introduction to contemporary YA and Rowell’s books overall, but also a great book to pick up after the end of a series when you need something short and sweet to read after marathoning several books (that might just be me there).

To me, this book is one of – if not, my favourite – contemporary YA book and is one of Rowell’s best works. The common age bracket of 14-17 for young adults is the target audience, however I would recommend Fangirl to anyone who has experienced the love of a fandom or anyone who can find a bit of themselves in Cath’s shy, introverted character.  Even if Fangirl isn’t your cup of tea, I highly encourage you to pursue her other works. Personally, Eleanor and Park is another of my favourites and although I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, Carry On has always received exceptional reviews.

About the reviewer: Emily McDonell was first prize winner in the Hunter Writers’ Centre/Compulsive Reader book review competition. She is a high school student, an avid reader and has a passion for books. It was clear from a very early age that books would play a large part in her life. Emily has participated in the Premier’s Reading Challenge since starting her schooling and her favourite subject is English. Emily has also been a Girl Guide for the past nine years and is currently working to complete her Queen’s Guide Award. Emily also loves animals especially her dog Jersey.