Book Review: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

KathyBack in sixth grade, when I couldn’t waaaait for the next Sweet Valley High book to come out, I decided to just go ahead and write my own SVH story. I lost interest after a few pages, but when the real book was finally released a major character died. I felt responsible – how dare I try to take over for Francine Pascal’s ghostwriters? RIP, Regina Morrow.

That remains my only attempt at writing fanfiction — stories using another person’s characters and world. Still, I knew I wanted to read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl the minute I heard about it. It’s the story of Cath, who’s starting college along with her twin sister, Wren. Both girls are huge Simon Snow fans (a book/movie series along the lines of Harry Potter). Or at least they were – once they get to school, Wren is off partying with her new roommate, leaving Cath on her own to finish writing her fanfic epic. To say that Cath has trouble adjusting to college would be putting it mildly.

Why Introverts Should Read This Book

Because you will recognize yourself in Cath, even if you’ve never heard of fanfiction. She’s a hardcore introvert and there were so many times I identified with her, whether she was staying up late to write instead of going out drinking, trying to figure out whether a guy was flirting or just being friendly, or stashing protein bars under her bed so she could avoid the dining hall.

If you’ve been to college, I’m betting this book will stir up a ton of memories and “me too!” moments. For introverts, I think college can be a major improvement over high school – I got to know people on a deeper level, in a more natural, gradual way because I was living with them. But in other ways it’s a real shock to the system: being with people 24/7, not having the level of privacy you might be used to, being reminded again and again that you are not a go-go-go-all-the-time person. Cath struggles with all of this, but she eventually reaps the benefits of college, too.

Why Extroverts Should Read This Book

For exchanges like the following:

[Cath:] “You give away nice like it doesn’t cost you anything.”

Levi laughed. “It doesn’t cost me anything. It’s not like smiling at strangers exhausts my overall supply.”

“Well, it does mine.”

“I’m not you. Making people happy makes me feel good. If anything, it gives me more energy for the people I care about.”

Cath’s roommate’s friend Levi is the quintessential extrovert – even though Cath doesn’t get his personality at first, Rowell definitely does. I loved how there was no extrovert-bashing in Fangirl, just a series of great explorations of how different types of people interact, confuse each other, and try to get along.

Why Parents Should Read This Book

So you can pass it on to your kids when you’re done! Or save it for when they’re ready. This would be a great senior-year read, so I’m holding on to my copy for Doodlebug. Okay fine, and I might reread it five or ten times before then.

Bonus Materials

Rainbow Rowell posts fan art, interview snippets, and other cool book-related stuff on her Tumblr. Also, if you like Benedict Cumberbatch (and who doesn’t?!) you will be very happy there.

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Go read this book. Go read this book! GO READ THIS BOOK! And then come back here so we can fangirl about it together.

— Kathy

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