A Review of ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

I really wish I could give a better review for a novel I should have been able to relate to. Rowell paints a portrait of a socially withdrawn young girl – Cath – who is absorbed in a world of fanfiction, entering the jungle of university with her twin sister, a passion for writing… This could be me! I thought.

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You’re not the ugly one… You’re just the Clark Kent

Disappointingly, Rowell’s portrait of a protagonist is nothing more than a finger-painting, smeared across a train wreck of tearfully boring plot. I may have been more forgiving of the frustratingly poor quality of writing had the author not thrown Cath out as a scholarship student on a Fiction Writing course. Perhaps this was intended to create an intelligent female lead? Instead, it works to reveal her stupidity, immaturity and naivety. For example, in one chapter Cath argues with her Professor about plagiarism after submitting a piece of fanfiction writing for grading. Her pitiful “I just don’t think you understand” might provoke a little sympathy for her embarrassment, and yet such a monumental error would surely not have been made by a supposed genius. To drive in the nail of embarrassment and contradiction a little further, the consecutive chapters following read more like a string of pathetic excuses rather than intelligent arguments for the celebration of fanfiction.

Do you really expect an elderly English professor to be down with gay Simon Snow fanfiction?

The fetishisation of a homosexual relationship by the use of fanfiction as a awkward foreplay is demeaning to LGBTQA individuals. And yet aside from these long scenes mashing together two stories, the romance is pitifully absent.

Rowell’s disjointed, repetitive writing style stalls the movement of the story on every page. Even the chapters are interrupted with snippets of the focal fandom: Simon Snow novels – a cheap reflection of Harry Potter. No conversation between characters is allowed to progress far without Cath’s outbursts of rudeness that are excused as social anxiety or the traits of being “a weirdo”. Overall the topic of mental health is roughly approached and poorly dealt with. Rowell throws in the father’s mental instability like an afterthought halfway through and fails to represent his condition accurately or with empathy.

Dad? Call me.”
“It’s Cath again. Call me.”
“Dad. Call me. Or call Wren. No, call me.

As a light read, Fangirl is a forgettable novel with predictable plotline and irritating, dislikeable characters. The scattering of sarcastic humour reads like a Tumblr dashboard, with just as much youthful angst and directionless written outpouring. Its only saving grace is the inside illustration of characters, these kept me occupied as I struggled to reach the end.

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SCORE: 2/10
RECOMMEND: Reading some fanfiction to find better quality stories.

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