Book Review: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

Photo credit: Goodreads
So, okay, I know I’m wayyyy late to this party and people on Twitter have been recommending Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell  to me for ages, but I finally got around to it! And. Um. Well.

I loved it.

Before I go into why, for the few of you who don’t know, here’s the Goodreads summary:

“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?”

So the number one thing I’ve heard people rave about with Fangirl is that they found it really relatable, and, well, I’m going to jump onto that bandwagon because reading Cath was like reading me (I mean, awkward, anxiety-prone, introverted writer? IT’S LIKE YOU KNOW ME, RAINBOW ROWELL). There were so many moments that I thought wow, I’ve done that or wow, I’ve felt exactly like that and I have to say? That doesn’t really happen often. In fact, I can’t really think of even one other time where that’s happened before.

But what I really really really loved about Fangirl was something I wasn’t even aware the book covered at all: mental illness representation.

I don’t think this is a spoiler, since we kind of learn this pretty early on: Cath’s dad is bipolar and she deals with some major anxiety struggles. Cath, at least, is never officially diagnosed with anything, but we can see right from the beginning that the anxiety she struggles with is much more than the norm. And it wasn’t just that it was included that I loved (though that’s part of it), but it was the way Rowell handled it so respectfully and without judgment.

I’ll openly admit that I haven’t had the chance to read many anxiety-prone protagonists (though not because I don’t want to!), but I can say, at least for Cath, that reading her perspective, and what things made her nervous, and how that anxiety manifested felt so real to me, largely because I’ve experienced many of the same thoughts and anxiety grossness and seeing it represented so honestly was so wonderful to read.

So go read Fangirl for the wonderful writing, the lovely characters, the gay vampire/mage fan fiction (yes, really), the realistic-yet-adorable romance and emotional ups and downs. But also read Fangirl for the way Rowell so respectfully portrayed characters with mental illness, without judging or stereotypes or harmful language or assumptions.

I’m giving Fangirl five stars and a huge high five to Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl is so very well done and I can’t recommend it more.

Have you read this book? Do you have any recommendations for me (particularly ones that portray mental illness respectfully)? 

Twitter-sized bites: 

.@Ava_Jae gives 5/5 stars to FANGIRL by @rainbowrowell. Have you read this wonderful YA Contemporary? (Click to tweet)   
Looking for a great YA read w/ respectful mental illness representation? Try FANGIRL by @rainbowrowell. (Click to tweet)


Fida Islaih said...

I like that you brought up the anxiety part. I don't think I have read a review that has. They all talk about relating to being a fangirl like her. So thank you! And I'm glad you loved it (:

Ava Jae said...

You're welcome! I'd never even heard that there was any anxiety/mental illness representation in Fangirl at all, and I thought it was important to talk about (plus it was a huge part of why I loved it so much, sooo...). Yup!

Magdalyn Ann said...

There's a book that was published actually a month or so ago and the protagonist has major anxiety. The main character is a anxiety ridden assassin lizardman with amnesia who becomes friends with a transgender punk rock superheroine and they're on a mission to save their burning city. It's full of diverse characters, both in regards to race, gender, and sexuality. It's absolutely precious. It's CHAMELEON MOON by RoAnna Sylver and I highly recommend it!

Magdalyn Ann said...

It's a fantasy dystopian, so its a bit of a jump from contemporary YA. I don't actually think it's even YA since the characters are mainly adults.

Ava Jae said...

YA or not, that sounds really awesome! I'll check it out, thanks! :)

Mirjana V. said...

They review is words right from my own head. I recently read this book and agree completely! Reading Cath was like reading me... and Rainbow Rowell's portrayal of mental illness was realistic and honest. This is why I loved this book... I'm so happy you did a review on it, and that I'm not the only one who loved it like this! :)

Ava Jae said...

We're definitely not the only ones! I know I briefly mentioned some of this on Twitter while I was writing and I had multiple people tell me they loved it for the same reasons, which I thought was really interesting because I'd never heard anyone recommend it for those reasons! Which is why I knew I had to review it myself. :)

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