Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair anymore — she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there’s romance far more intense than anything she’s experiences in real life.
Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realising that there’s more to learn about love she ever thought possible…
First published: 2013
Back in December, I received a wonderful package as part of the Secret Santa exchange organised by The Broke and the Bookish. I was pretty excited when I found Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl inside, because after reading so many amazing reviews about her books, I was getting really curious as to what all the fuss was about. This January, I finally got to read Fangirl, and I loved it!
Firstly, let’s talk about Cath, because she’s one of the most relatable characters ever for me. She suffers from anxiety quite heavily and lives on power bars for her first three weeks on campus because she’s too afraid to ask anyone where the dining hall is. She’s afraid to go to parties or to even talk to strangers so she keeps to herself and writes fanfiction in her room. And she’s written so damn well. I could relate to her and her anxiety so much. We don’t have the whole campus/dorms situation in the Netherlands and I was fortunate enough to be able to live with my parents for the first year of my studies (longer, if I had wanted to), because I would have been a right mess if I’d been in Cath’s shoes. There were so many moments in this book that reminded me of the person I was a couple of years ago, like this one:
“You’re coming with us,” Levi asked, “right?”
Cath almost said yes. Instead she shook her head.
There’s so much more to Cath than her anxiety, though. I love how witty she is and that she has such a passion for something — in her case, writing fanfiction. She’s so dedicated to it, and I know that feeling very well. There were lots of times when I’d much rather stay home and write stories than go out with my friends.
Throughout the book (mostly in between chapters) there are excerpts from either the “real” Simon Snow books, or Cath’s fanfiction about Simon. These excerpts really gave an extra dimension to Cath’s love for the stories, and I loved reading them, but near the end of the book I did often find myself thinking: “Can we get back to the real story now, please?” Still, though, it was fun to get to know more about Simon Snow, and all the similarities to Harry Potter made it even better.
Of course, Cath isn’t the only character in the book, and the other characters are written just as amazingly as she is. There’s Reagan, her badass roommate. Reagan is a very nice person, in theory, but can also be a bit of a bitch, even if she doesn’t mean to. She’s flawed, and I love that. She’s also refreshingly different from Cath.
Then there’s Wren, Cath’s twin sister, who kind of abandons her once they go to college. She decided that she doesn’t want to do everything together with Cath anymore, and I totally get that. Being a twin must be quite frustrating sometimes, and (at the risk of sounding harsh) it must be quite exhausting to be Cath’s twin at times as well. But just completely abandoning her while Cath obviously needs some help adjusting to the new situation? That’s uncalled for, I think, and I was pretty angry with Wren for most of the story. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t also written very well, though. It’s really interesting to see how differently she reacts to the whole “going to college” thing than her sister does.
Fangirl just kind of had everything for me. It was so great to read a story about the changes you go through once you go to university. The story’s all about the characters and how they cope with all of this, and these characters are so wonderful (Levi! I kind of fell in love with him) and well developed. I didn’t mention Cath and Wren’s father in this review (since that would mean this post would’ve been even longer) but he and his problems become quite a big part of the story as well. Rowell is a master storyteller, and the combination of her writing style and the amazing characters made it very hard for me to put this book down.
Also, apparently Cath’s fanfiction Carry On is going to be an actual thing!