Fangirl book cover
|Cover artist||Noelle Stevenson|
|Genre||Contemporary Young Adult|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
|September 10, 2013|
Cath is a freshman at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, along with her much more outgoing identical twin sister Wren. But Cath is having a hard time adjusting to college. First, because Wren doesn't want to room with her, and second, because of her social anxiety disorder. A lot of Cath's free time is spent writing fan fiction for a book series about a boy magician named Simon Snow, and Cath has thousands of passionate followers who read her award-winning fan fiction based on a story similar to Harry Potter. Wren distances herself from Cath as she enters college, professes to have outgrown fan fiction and Simon Snow, and goes out drinking and dancing with her roommate almost every night. Meanwhile, Cath is more interested in her fiction-writing class. The professor is very impressed with her writing, and Cath finds a writing partner and friend in Nick, whom she meets with weekly for writing sessions. However, Cath suffers an emotional and academic setback when the professor gives Cath an F for writing a fan fiction story for a class assignment, as she considers this to be plagiarism.
Cath is, in general, miserable at school. She has no friends, has been emotionally abandoned by her identical twin sister, and gets panic attacks at the idea of eating at her dorm's dining hall so she subsists on a stash of energy bars she furtively eats in her room. She still suffers from the scars of her mother's abandonment when she was eight, and she is very worried about her father, who is bipolar and does not take care of himself. So her bold, outgoing roommate, Reagan, and friend Levi, decide to befriend Cath. Cath becomes closer to Levi. It turns out Levi is not dating Reagan and is interested romantically in Cath, but when Cath seeks out Levi to let him know she reciprocates his feelings, she finds him in the arms of another woman. Then, Cath is betrayed by her writing partner, who was just using her to get a higher grade in the fiction-writing class. Just before finals, Cath's father has a bipolar psychological crisis and ends up being involuntarily committed to a mental facility for a short time, causing Cath to ditch her exams and her final paper for her fiction-writing class so she can travel home to Omaha and take care of her father.
Cath becomes very stressed and reaches a point of giving up on school, on Wren, and on the complicated relationships she has forged at school with Reagan, Nick, Levi, and her fiction-writing professor. However, she decides to continue and starts to learn to deal with her various problems. Meanwhile, Wren's problems surface in a shocking way. Cath and her sister reunite after Wren gets alcohol poisoning and ends up in the hospital, and while in the hospital waiting to see Wren, Cath sees her mother after years of abandonment. Nick's betrayal comes home to roost in a satisfying fashion as Wren, Reagan, and Levi defend Cath, and Levi is found to be much more than meets the eye. As the year comes to a close, Cath struggles to finish writing her fan fiction novel of two years, Carry On, Simon, and to write her original short story (as well as a way of making peace with her mom's leaving her) for fiction-writing.
Note: Rowell has stated that most of the characters in the novel have names taken from buildings on the University of Nebraska—Lincoln campus.
- Cather "Cath" Avery
- The shy, introverted protagonist and eponymous "fangirl". Cath is an identical twin, describing herself as looking like her sister, only with long hair and glasses. Unlike her sister, Cath prefers to dress in clothes that say "up all night writing," rather than, "party at a boy's place." Cath is a very talented writer. Her main hobby is writing fanfiction about the fictitious Simon Snow series, particularly fanfiction between two male characters, Simon Snow and Baz Pitch. In her family life, Cath is very close to her father. Her mother left the family a week after 9/11, when Cath and Wren were in the Third Grade. As a result, Cath has had to take more responsibility in the family, trying to fill some space that her mother left empty. Further, Cath is resentful of her mother and refuses to acknowledge her. Her relationship with her twin sister, Wren, preceding the book is good, however they begin to grow apart the during the school year. Wren specifically tells Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath becomes friends with her roommate, Reagan, an upperclassman, and subsequently, Reagan's "boyfriend", Levi, whom she eventually dates. Another plot point is Cath's low self-esteem, which causes her to constantly berate herself and compare herself to Wren. Because of this, Cath has trouble believing that Levi actually likes her romantically. She keeps him and Wren separate because she thinks that if he gets to know her, he will like her better. She eventually decides to stay at the University of Nebraska, continue living with Reagan, and pursue a career in writing.
- Wren Avery
- Cath's twin sister. Wren is the "awesome one", being more outgoing and extroverted than her sister. Cath admires her confidence and her ability to take things in stride. She is the less responsible of the two and cares more about fitting in and being a party girl than working hard and taking care of herself. Wren tells Cath that she does not want to be roommates at college because she wants to break free and have her own life. According to Cath, Wren has had lots of boyfriends, though she has not really cared for any of them. Wren is the one who decides to reconnect with their mother. She is also constantly annoyed at Cath for being overbearing and more like a mother. After she gets alcohol poisoning, she agrees to change, and is shown to party less and grows closer with Cath as a result. Cath is hesitant to let Wren hang around with Levi out of fear that he will get to know Wren and end up liking her better, which he practically laughs at. Wren is also an avid fan of the Simon Snow books like her sister.
- Levi Stewart
- Cath's friend and, later, boyfriend. Levi is shown to be tall, blonde, and a farm boy. He was raised on a ranch in a small town in Nebraska and has four sisters. He studies Range Management at the Agricultural School and hopes to work on his family's ranch eventually. Cath describes him as a guy who is always smiling at everyone like it does not cost him anything. Levi is polite, smart, and an extrovert. Before the book, he and Regan were in a relationship, but it ended quickly once they started college when Reagan kept cheating on him. Although he has an incredibly retentive memory, Levi struggles with reading because the written words do not resonate with him like sounds do. Instead, he listens to lectures and books so that he can retain the information. Levi is shown to be incredibly faithful and loyal. He is the person who is most devoted to getting to know Cath and getting her out of her shell. (In her FAQ, Rainbow Rowell stated that Levi's surname was Stewart, a fact not mentioned in the book.)
- Cath's roommate. She is described as an edgier version of Adele. Reagan is sarcastic, cynical, and often mean to Cath, but this is apparently her way of caring. She eventually takes Cath under her wing and becomes her friend. She dated Levi in high school, but they broke up when they got to college, and remain friends. She is on a scholarship and is required to live in residence.
- Arthur Avery
- Cath and Wren's father. He is bipolar, but tries to be good parent to Cath and Wren. Arthur is shown to have crazy ideas, like building a fireman's pole to the washroom, etc., and is described as a marketing genius by his boss. He is left in a tough position after their mother leaves, but copes with the help of Cath and Wren. He has a psychotic break in the middle of the novel, one of several he has had in his lifetime, and is temporarily committed to a mental institution. Although he does need help to take care of himself, he puts his daughters' education above all else and does not want Cath to take care of him. He is also shown to be a very liberal parent, not making a big deal about who the girls bring home and letting them make their own decisions.
- Nick Manter
- Cath's classmate and former writing partner. Cath describes him as looking like "someone with a steerage ticket on the Titanic". He is a talented writer but takes himself too seriously, not believing in love or wanting to write romance. Nick asks Cath to write together as a side project, but he ends up writing most of it himself and getting Cath to "fix" his writing by editing, writing dialogue, and changing details. Eventually Nick tells Cath that he is going to hand in their story as his final assignment for their class, telling her that he was really the writer and she just did the editing. Professor Piper, however, notices Cath's distinctive style in the writing. Nick eventually loses his teaching assistantship due to his plagiarism and cannot get the story published in the school journal because Cath will not allow him to put her down as the coauthor, a demand of Professor Piper.
- Professor Piper
- Cath's Fiction-Writing professor. She is described as a small woman with long grey-streaked brown hair and high cheek bones. She is the person who most believes in Cath's talent, giving her a second chance to redeem herself by letting her take the semester to work on her final assignment. She is the one that makes Nick Manter ask Cath for permission to publish the short story that they wrote together. Professor Piper disapproves of fan fiction and while understanding that it is not plagiarism, criticizes it for being unoriginal.
- Alejandro "Jandro"
- Wren's boyfriend. Jandro is introduced at Muggsy's, where he punches another guy for making rude remarks at Wren and Cath. He is described as Mexican, tall and muscular and disapproving of Wren's drinking habits. He studies Agriculture and lives in the Farm House, the Agriculture fraternity.
- Wren's party girl roommate. At the beginning of the novel they are shown to be really good friends, despite only having met over the summer. Wren later begins to resent Courtney because she is shallow and quite stupid.
- Cath and Wren's mother. Laura met Arthur while working at an advertising firm when she was quite young. She never planned on getting pregnant and was not pleased when she found out that she was having too. She left the girls on September 11, 2001 and promised that she would talk to them again, but never did. She tries to get in contact with the girls during the course of the novel and is only given a chance by Wren. Cather hates her mother for leaving them and does not approve of her lack of interest in their lives, and wants nothing to do with them. Laura named her daughters Cather and Wren because she wanted to name her daughter "Catherine" and did not want to change her choice of name when she found out that she was having two girls, not one.
- Abel is Cath's high school boyfriend. He breaks up with her when Cath is a few months into college. He tells her that their relationship was never real. He also tells her he met another girl, Katie, who he feels he has a "real" relationship with. He also lets Cath know that Katie got a higher score than Cath on the ACT exam.
- Girl with the Pink Ugg Boots
- She lives across from Cath and Reagan's room and has a weird interest in Levi. She also has pink Uggs.
The critical reception to the book has been positive, noting in particular its realistic portrayal of fan culture. A reviewer for Tor.com calls it "true-to-geek-life" and notes that "Rowell understands something vital in her novel, and that is that fandom is so much more than escapism—it is, whether conscious or unconsciously—a way for folks to interact with their surroundings." Entertainment Weekly gives Rowell credit for capturing both the universe of fan fiction and the inside of a young person's head. A Kirkus starred review calls the novel "absolutely captivating." When Fangirl was chosen as the inaugural book for the Tumblr book club, a Tumblr representative noted its themes of loving books and creating art, its appeal to readers of all ages, and Rowell's existing fan base on the social media platform as reasons for the choice.
On October 6, 2015, Rowell published the novel Carry On, which is a standalone story about Simon Snow and Baz Pitch, the characters from the fictional novel series that Cather obsesses about. It is a love story starring the two, as they try to seamlessly glide from enemies to lovers, all while fighting an evil force threatening the destroy the magical world. It has the same name as the novel-within-a-novel that Cath is writing in Fangirl. However, it is a standalone novel. It is Rowell's first fantasy.
Cather and Levi have a cameo in Rowell's novel Landline.
- Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, NY. Print.
- Nordling, Emily (13 August 2013). "Finding Your Real Life OTP: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell". Tor.com. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Brissey, Breia (4 September 2013). "Fangirl (2013)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell". Kirkus Reviews. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Brissey, Breia (11 September 2013). "Tumblr chooses Rainbow Rowell's 'Fangirl' as first official book club selection". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 15 September 2013.