Book Review: Fangirl (Audiobook)




Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: September 10th 2013

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 445

Audio: 12 h 49m 0s

Narrators: Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield




Cath is a Simon Snow fan.


Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…


But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.


Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.


Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.


Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.


For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?


Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?


And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


My First Thoughts:


A lot of people seemed to really enjoy this book and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about. The cover was absolutely beautiful and I loved the pastel coloring, so I thought: Aw hell, why not? I enjoyed listening to my first audiobook and this one was pretty lengthy, so I thought it would be perfect for the several multiple hour drives I was doing within the week.


Story Breakdown:


The major theme within this book is Coming-of-Age, in which Cather has to decide through trial and error just what it means to be ‘more adult-like’. Cather must realize what’s important for her future and what’s less important, and the middle ground between the two. This is a very classic theme found in many Middle Readers and Young Adult books. However, because Cather is in college and in that between stage of teenager and adult, I would say that this book is more of the New Adult category, simply because psychologically she’s in that stage of development. If you’re interested, I’ll be uploading a post at some point explaining New Adult as a category in more detail.


Cather is the perfect character for a Coming-of-Age story simply because she’s on the fence between two stages of her life and development. Cather is also a character who faces something a lot more people are realizing that they face as well: anxiety. Anxiety is such a broad term and can be applied to many aspects of a person’s life, such as social anxiety, testing anxiety, travelling anxiety, etc. Because the term is so broad many authors, it seems to me, don’t really approach the subject or declare a character to have it, even in some cases in which readers can identify clearly the signs of anxiety within that character. That’s fine, however, Rainbow Rowell

Created Cather with many of the ‘common’ forms of anxiety and used them to both hinder Cather and make her achievements more admirable.


Wren, however, is the exact opposite of Cather. She doesn’t suffer from anxiety, instead she’s ready to find new adventures and try new things. Wren’s story, though not the main focus, also follows the Coming-of-Age theme as she tries to find the right balance and place for her in college.


Overall Thoughts/Opinion:


This book didn’t live up to the hype for me. Fangirl was extremely interesting and was very enjoyable to read. However, there were parts that frustrated me to no end.


What really makes a book enjoyable is the main character and their journey. To me, Cather’s journey was entertaining and a bit stimulating, but Cather was a different story. Cather was one of those main characters that I loved and hated at the same time. I was ecstatic that she had anxiety and that she wrote fanfiction because I’ve never read a book in which a main character had a mental illness, or that wrote fanfiction. Rowell did a fantastic job, I my opinion, portraying someone with a form of anxiety. Granted, every person with anxiety is different, no two people who have anxiety suffer in the same ways. With that said, Rowell did well to make Cather’s anxiety very generic and recognizable so that other readers may relate. However, there were times in which I wanted to strangle Cather because her actions and mindset really frustrated me to no end. For one, I did not agree with her on what it means to be a fan in fandom and two, her ‘information’ was extremely one-sided and wrong in places. But again, all my opinion.


Wren was a fine enough character, though I can’t say that she was more likable. I did, however, enjoy seeing her turn around and where her journey took her development. I would have to say that my favorite character in their family was their father. Rowell tackled another mental illness that is left out of literature, most of the time, and is mostly not talked about in media. Bipolar is something that surprisingly a lot of people suffer from, including a lot of actors, actresses, and other celebrities, and it’s usually linked to people with high levels of creativity. Again, Rowell created a character with a disorder not many people talk about, that character is Cather’s father. By giving Cather’s father, a very creative individual in a job that demands creativity, bipolar Rowell shows how a person may live with that illness and who it affect them and their family. With that said, I loved their father. He sort of reminded me of some of the people that I know who are bipolar, and I was glad to see that he was made out to be quirky, but normal. I also loved listening to the interactions between him and his daughters.


I realize that I actually liked the male characters more than the family ones this time around. It’s a little unusually, because naturally female writes portray women better in their novels, while male authors portray men better. There’s honestly nothing wrong with that, authors write what they know, and the most convincing characters are usually the same sex as the author. This time though, I found the female characters to be more frustrating than the males, and I liked them way better. With that said, I really enjoyed reading/listening about Levi. He was an interesting character that was definitely the flip-side to Cather. I also liked that he wasn’t a complete ‘good guy’, he was really nice but made his own mistakes too, it made him more human. And the romance wasn’t bad, it was actually pretty light and kinda cutesy. I enjoyed seeing Cather branch out some and figure out what she likes in a relationship, it’s definitely something not all people take the time to do. The romance was also unusual, totally normal by my definition, but it didn’t follow the normal equation for Young Adult/New Adult romance, which was refreshing.


From what I’ve read, not a lot of people enjoyed the extra Simon Snow inserts at the end of each chapter. I actually really enjoyed those little bits at the end. I don’t really have a particular reason, maybe because I had a male British-American reading them to me and I absolutely adore accents. Either way, I really delighted in listening to those extra parts at the end of each chapter, and they actually convinced me to get the companion novel Carry On.


Final Thoughts:


If you’re interested in contemporary romance, witty dialogue, and diverse characters this book may be for you. If you get bored by character driven stories, i.e. stories with no real main action/quest, then you’ll get tired of this book pretty quick. There’s no real ‘adventure’ it’s more of a psychological journey, or character development/character maturity driven story, rather than this is the goal and these are the steps the character has to take to get there. I don’t normally read these kinds of books, but it was a nice break from what I normally read.


Also, if you’re very sensitive about what it means to be a ‘fangirl’/’fanboy’ you may love or hate this book. Personally, I don’t agree with Cather’s, or Rowell’s for the matter, idea of what it means to be a ‘fan(in in the blank)’ of anything. In my opinion, their ideas are a bit one-sided and honestly a bit ignorant. I believe myself to be a fangirl of many things and I have been raised, quite literally, by people of multiple fandoms so Rowell and Cather’s ideas of what it means to be a fan actually angered me from time to time. However, I’ve seen other people who completely agree with their ideas, so it really depends on the person.


Also, if you’re sensitive about mental illness, specifically anxiety and bipolar, read with caution. This book was not written to showcase and explain the two, but instead tried to show two (mildly) functioning individuals and how they fell and came back due to their illness. I believe this book tried to show how people with mental illnesses can still function within a society, unlike a lot of characters in various media forms, even when they ‘fall’ and that they can live pretty normal lives.




Story: 3.5/5


The story was enjoyable and kept me entertained for a while, but it didn’t strike me as ‘Oh wow!’ like everyone else. It fell short of my expectations, which was a little bit of a bummer, but it was definitely worth reading. Cather didn’t completely win me over, but her dad and Levi definitely made up for it. The romance was cute and refreshing, nothing like what I have been reading lately, which is a little depressing on my part. The Coming of Age journey that Cather took was interesting to follow. However, this will not be one of the first books that I’ll be recommending to my friends anytime soon, but I’m definitely eager to read the companion novel.


Narration: 4/5


At first I was a bit confused as to why there were two narrators, but due to my inexperience with Audiobooks I thought nothing of it. I actually enjoyed listening to the two narrators, it was refreshing, especially during the monotonous drives, and it allowed me to distinguish from the story and the various Simon Snow inserts. I thought Rebecca Lowman did a fantastic job bringing her characters to life, and I really enjoyed how she portrayed the male characters. Maxwell Caulfield also did a fantastic job setting up the atmosphere in the various Simon Snow inserts; I loved how I felt like his voice was transporting me into the made-up Mage Universe.


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