Cover of Fangirl, with a redheaded boy trying to talk to a girl who is busy writing fan fiction on her laptop

About the Book

Title: Fangirl
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Talky Talk: Too Good To Not Be True
Bonus Factors: Simon Snow, Identical Twins, College
Relationship Status: Big Fan

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

Could this cover be MORE adorable? Psyche, that’s a rhetorical question because NO IT COULD NOT. I love how the illustration looks like fan art, and the graphic novel style makes it stand out amidst the typical YA cover fare. The best part is Simon and Baz because SIMON AND BAZ!

The Deal:

Cath and her twin sister Wren are heading into their freshman year of college with two very different agendas. Wren’s plan can be summed up like this:

Scene from Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig on an airplane yelling, "I'm ready to paaaartaaaay."

For Cath, things are a bit too complicated to be captured by a gif. With an unstable father back at home, Cath is torn between the two worlds of her past: her real life, when she and Wren stuck together like white on rice, and her online existence, where she’s a wildly popular writer of Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fanfic. The demands of college threaten to rob her of both, leaving her with a lack of identity, not to mention friends. Fortunately for Cath, the housing gods blessed her with Reagan, her badass roommate who has a very charming bestie named Levi. As Cath slowly opens herself up to Levi and the college experience, she learns how to ease her grip on the past so she can seize the present and ultimately take hold of her future.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

BFF charm with Roger Murtagh from Lethal Weapon's face.

I totally understand that college can be a terrifying experience, especially when you’re a shy bookworm like Cath. But girlfriend lived on protein bars for weeks because she was too scared to find the cafeteria. HONEY. GET A GRIP. While I related to her fangirl nature and totally respected her unconditional love for her dad, I had a hard time being patient with Cath. Sure, there were moments when I just wanted to hole up in Cath’s dorm room and nerd out with her about Simon Snow, but the rest of the time, I was this close to calling the hospital so she could get a backbone transplant. Outwardly, she’s so meek and mild and just plain SAD, to the point where I totally understood why Wren ditched her. (Although Wren also needs to look at her life and look at her choices.)

Fortunately for Little Miss Pushover, she doesn’t need my BFF charm, because she’s got Reagan. Reagan is a fierce bitch and I LOVE HER SO MUCH. She’s the perfect friend for Cath, because she doesn’t put up with shizz, but deep down, she’s got a super caring heart. This exchange really says it all:

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”

“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”

“Me, too,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”

Reagan, forget about Cath and be my roomie next year!!!

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Levi walked on to the page and straight into my heart. He’s a farmboy, tall and goofy, and he can’t seem to stop smiling. (His grin is so powerful, I found myself smiling like an idiot every time I read about it.) Because she’s utterly daft, Cath wastes precious pages of the book thinking that Levi is dating Reagan, but that doesn’t stop him from charming his way deeper into the story. He’s a total sweetheart and a gentleman, and when things do start to heat up, Rainbow Rowell expertly transforms him in the eyes of Cath from gangly to gorgeous. I loved this line in particular:

God, his chin. She wanted to make an honest woman of his chin. She wanted to lock it down.

In fact, Levi would pretty much be perfect if not for the incessant descriptions of his big forehead and thin hair. Rainbow, why you gotta keep it real like that?

Talky Talk: Too Good To Not Be True

In case you were curious, Eleanor & Park was not a fluke. Rainbow Rowell really is THAT talented. She has a gift for illuminating the ordinary, for capturing a feeling and sending it hurtling into your chest. Her descriptions border on eccentric and yet, when you read them, they immediately click with your brain. Take, for example, this observation of Nick, a guy in Cath’s writing class:

He looked like someone with a steerage ticket on the Titanic. Somebody who’d be standing in line at Ellis Island. Undiluted and old-blooded. Also, cute.

Like, of course, right? You can totally picture Nick now, can’t you?

In spite of not really connecting with Cath, there were still plenty of internal experiences that resonated with me, thanks to Rowell’s mastery of emotion. Her ability to translate universal truths into deceptively simple sentences led to a little highlighter party between me and my e-book edition. Here’s one of my favorites:

“That moment,” she told Cath, “when you realize that a guy’s looking at you differently– that you’re taking up more space in his field of vision. That moment when you know he can’t see past you anymore.”


Overall, I found Cath’s journey to be wonderfully compelling, and I prefer the equal balance of light and dark in this book to the heartbreak of Eleanor & Park.

Bonus Factor: Simon Snow

Illustration of Simon and Bazz looking at each other adoringly with hearts around them

Okay, as much as I enjoyed Fangirl, can we please start a petition to get Rainbow to write the Simon Snow series in its entirety because I AM HOOKED. My favorite parts of the book were the Simon chapters, whether they were from the original Gemma T. Leslie novels or Cath’s adaptations. I loved the fact that Cath didn’t just write fanfic, she wrote slashfic, and now I’ll never picture Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy in the same way again.

Speaking of the Boy Who Lived, did anyone else get really distracted at the mention of Harry Potter in Fangirl? Maybe Rowell did it for legal reasons, but I had a tough time buying the idea that Simon and Harry could co-exist in our culture.

Bonus Factor: Identical Twins

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the blonde twins from Sweet Valley High

I am simultaneously fascinated and creeped out by identical twins, so I relished this chance to get a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up with someone who looks and sounds exactly like you. Wren and Cath’s relationship feels incredibly authentic, although they clearly missed an opportunity to prank people by switching places.

Bonus Factor: College

Scene from Felicity, with Felicity and Ben sitting on the floor of a dorm room with books

It’s still far too rare for college to creep into young adult novels, especially now that new adult is out there, sexing up the genre.

Relationship Status: Big Fan

Thanks to Rowell’s excellent writing and the Simon Snow storyline, I am totally on Team Fangirl. I wouldn’t say that I’ve reached swimfan levels, nor would I cover my bedroom wall with this book’s posters, but I would gladly express my allegiance with a Carry On, Simon t-shirt. (Seriously, how can we make these available in the FYA store? We did!) Oh, and if anyone happens to stumble upon a Simon & Baz fanfic site, let a girl know!

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought this book with my own damn money, and received neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review.

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Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.