Published January 30th 2014 by Pan Macmillan (first published September 10th 2013)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“There was a boy in her room.”
Synopsis from blurb of book:
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 experienced 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 realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible.
After hearing good things about this book, I finally found a copy at my local discount bookshop, and from then it sat on myself waiting for the day I would get round to reading it. Months later, I was in that bookshop again with a friend and when she saw Fangirl on the shelf she asked: ‘Have you read this one?’ and I said ‘I’ve got a copy but haven’t read it yet.’ Her eyes went big, arms probably flailed about and she joked about our friendship resting on my reading of the book, and that if I hadn’t read it by tomorrow…
So I started it that night. And no, I didn’t read it all in one go (although I wish I could have!) But I started it, and that’s the main thing. It took me a few sittings reading a few pages at a time before I really got into it, and then I was really into it.
Cath is one of the best and most relatable characters I’ve encountered. She’d rather live in a world of fiction than real life, she’s socially anxious and likes to stay in her room. The situation is classic: girl is just starting uni (or college) and she’s having to share a room with someone new, and navigate this situation like an adult. When I went to uni, I stayed at home because it was only about 30 minutes to an hour trip, so there was no point moving. Basically, I never had that experience of being suddenly independent or having a new chapter of my story starting with a boy being in my room.
But I have a certain love for books that explore this stage in life, and this is perfect with a character like Cath. She also as a twin sister, who is pursuing what I’d call the ‘typical student lifestyle’, meaning she wants to go out drinking at parties and meet boys. For someone who would rather avoid social situations, to have someone like a twin who is the opposite to you brings a whole other world of conflict.
The girls have been close, connecting though their love of the Simon Snow series (which is pretty much like their equivalent of Harry Potter) and the fanfiction that Cath writes. Cath continues to write, and is actually doing a fiction writing course. I could relate to this too, as I studied Creative Writing at uni and struggled at first to leave the fictional worlds and characters that I’d come to know before starting the course. But in Cath’s case, she’s writing based on characters and a world created by someone else: Gemma T. Leslie.
There’s so much packed into this book, that it would take an essay length review for me to discuss all of it. But this books brilliance creeped up on me, and once I was into it I was addicted to the book. I’d read it at every chance I got. I love the way Cath’s story is told alongside snippets of her fanfiction. The cast of characters are amazing too, and I’ll never forget my experience of ‘meeting’ them through this book.
My copy has illustrations of the characters at the start, so this helped with my visualisation of them, and I felt like I was automatically closer to the story because of it.
Cath is my favourite. She has a good sense of humour with her inner thoughts and feelings about the world around her. Her view of social situations is exactly the same as mine, and her love for fictional worlds is the closest I have ever found to my own love for them. However, I’ve never written fanfiction and at some points I was almost a little embarrassed about her dedication to Simon and Baz, and I just wanted her to snap out of it and find her own voice. But I loved her writing journey (and her final story has similar ideas to one I wrote a while ago!)
I’m not so sure about Wren. I thought she’d be a more important character than she was. She more important towards the end of the book. I realise why her character is the way she is, and that’s fine because of the story…but for me I just don’t relate to her because I’m sided with Cath!
Levi. L e v i. He’s just great. I love this character. After Cath, he’s my favourite. I want to read more of Levi, and when I was nearing the end of the book my sadness about it being almost over was because there would be no more Levi. I love the story that develops between him and Cath, and I’m not big on romance but this had me feeling all mushy and smiling.
Reagan is…Reagan. She was a good addition to the cast of characters, and probably the best person Cath could have been sharing a room with. I think Cath needed someone like Reagan, even though they’re also pretty opposite. But in a different way to Cath and Wren.
Nick was a favourite early on, but then he sort of fizzled out for me after Levi became more prominent. And in the end I felt a bit ‘meh’ about Nick, which was a shame really because of how much I’d liked him when he first appeared.
Art (Cath and Wren’s dad) is an interesting one. His significance comes really from the backstory of the twins, and how their mother left them. To begin with I didn’t really care about this storyline, and I’m still not that bothered by it, but I understand why it was a huge thing for the girls and for the plot as a whole. I was just less captured by it in the grand scheme of the book.
This book made me feel a lot of good things. I wanted to dive into writing fiction. I wanted to be back at uni again, I wanted to sit up all night reading a book, I wanted to read with a guy, I wanted to connect with a guy, I wanted to sit at my desk tapping at my laptop, and I wanted to write words with someone else. This book became so immersive and I didn’t want to leave it.
I’ve not touched too much on the second layer involving Simon and Baz, because that story doesn’t really do a lot for me. I understand what it is to Cath and why it exists, and I love books that create these kind of narratives, but the fantasy story isn’t really my thing so I wasn’t as invested in that. It’s also why I haven’t started reading Carry On yet. Well, I have, but it didn’t grab me enough to continue. One day I will.
This was well worth the read, and I’m glad my friend inspired me to read it! So shoutout to my very own Cath with a K.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Fangirl