Beautiful coming-of-age story about fandom and first love.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about fanfiction and how it can encourage young writers and fans to express their creativity. Fangirl also explores how some writers don't consider fan fiction a legitimate outlet for creative writing.

Positive messages

Fangirl is about loving books, and how loving books can change your life. There are wonderful messages about the process of writing, how fanfiction can help but also limit a creative writer, and why listening to a piece of writing can also be a valid form of "reading." Cath and Levi's relationship supports the idea that every couple needs to go at a mutually accepted pace physically, and that sex doesn't need to be rushed for a relationship to grow. The story also stresses the importance of sibling bonds and parent-child closeness.

Positive role models

Levi's one of the best examples of a sensitive, loving boyfriend who is unconditionally supportive, funny, and a gentleman. Cath is brilliant and talented but also painfully awkward, extremely introverted and ill-at-ease with other people. She learns, albeit slowly, how to branch out and get to know people. Cath and Wren go their separate ways for a short while but find their way back to each other as identical twins and best friends. Reagan is surly and opinionated but ultimately a very good friend to Levi and Cath. Cath and Wren's dad adores his girls and is always there for them.


There's one brief dust-up in a bar where Wren's boyfriend punches in the chin a drunk guy making lewd comments.


The characters, all of whom are over 18, discuss sexual relationships, loss of virginity, and "experience" levels. The two main characters go very slow with their physical relationship (they take sex "off the table" for the girl to feel comfortable) and only go as far as some passionate kisses and making out partially undressed in bed.


Although the protagonist doesn't curse much, the other characters do and say everything from "f--k," "a--hole," "bitch," "douche," and "s--t" -- often but not in every conversation.


Levi works at Starbucks and makes several references to various coffee drinks, like eggnog or gingerbread lattes, or white mochas. Carhartt apparel is discussed as the outfit of choice for the Agriculture students.


Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Set on a college campus, Fangirl features a few scenes of college-age students drinking either at a bar or a party. A couple of guys at a bar are drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Fangirl is the second young adult novel by New York Times bestselling author Rainbow Rowell. Set in a present Nebraska college (instead of an '80s Nebraska high school like Eleanor & Park), Fangirl follows an 18-year-old introvert's first year away at university. A hermit who only leaves the room for class, protagonist Cath is secretly a prodigious fanfiction writer in the Simon Snow fandom (think Harry Potter). While Cath is a virgin who doesn't drink or even really curse, other characters use strong language pretty regularly ("f--k," "a--hole," "douche," "s--t," etc.) and discuss their sexual experience. The actual sexual content is fairly tame for a college-set story: limited to kissing and making out partially undressed in bed. Through Cath's introversion and Levi's dyslexia, the book also explores social anxiety and learning disabilities, as well as the importance of taking risks, academically and personally.

What's the story?

Cath is a freshman in college with a lot of social anxiety and only two things that make her feel completely at home: her outgoing identical twin sister Wren (who chose to live in another dorm) and her love of the fantasy book series Simon Snow (an obvious tribute to Harry Potter). The ultimate FANGIRL, Cath writes popular fanfiction for the Simon Snow fandom. Stuck with Reagan, a surly, opinonated upperclassman roommate with no sense of boundaries, Cath barely leaves her dorm room. Despite her desire to stay away from people, Cath must deal with the near constant presence of Reagan's smiley, friendly, chatty boyfriend, Levi -- who begins to draw her out of her shell, and even more frightening, charm his way into her heart.

Is it any good?


Rowell, whose first book Attachments was a charming "chick lit" romantic comedy, burst onto the YA scene early in 2013 with the critically acclaimed misfit romance Eleanor & Park. She's apparently cranking out the quality realistic fiction with her follow-up out a scant eight months later. Fangirl shares a few similarities with E&P: the Nebraska setting, an intelligent, introverted girl who doesn't say much, and a guy who's almost too good to be true. But aside from that, Fangirl isn't just a love story about people, it's also a love story about fiction and the power of books and fandoms.

Every chapter begins with excerpts from not only Cath's fanfiction but also the "canon" of the Potter-like Simon Snow books. If you pay even cursory attention to the book-within-a-book, it's obvious that Simon, Baz, and Gemma T. Leslie are stand-ins for Harry, Draco, and author J.K. Rowling. Through her writing, Cath can express things she can't in real life, where she's extremely reclusive and socially inept. The only person besides Cath's party-girl sister, Wren, who can see the real her is Levi -- the kind of swoon-worthy guy that's sure to become any reader's literary crush. Cath and Levi have a host of issues, but their romance, slow and steady and startlingly real, will make anyone a believer in how books and love go hand in hand.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the theme of literacy, writing, and loving books is a big part of the story. How is Cath different from "Magicath"? How does reading aloud to Levi become a romantic, intimate gesture?

  • What did you think of the Simon Snow excerpts? Did you immediately think of Harry Potter? Which did you prefer, the "canon" Simon Snow excerpts or Cath and Wren's fanfics?

  • Would you or have you already written fanfiction? Cath thinks it's original, even if you're "borrowing" characters and settings. Do you agree with her or her creative writing professor, who considers it accepted plagiarism?

  • Do you think Cath's fear of intimacy is believable? What aspects of Cath and Levi's relationship seem authentic? Why should a person be willing to put sex "off the table" for the person they're dating?

Book details

Author:Rainbow Rowell
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:St. Martin's Press
Publication date:September 10, 2013
Number of pages:433
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bybroadwaybookworm January 5, 2014

Fangirl Leaves me Fangirl-ing about Rainbow Rowell!

My friend told me to pick up Fangirl and once I read it, I absolutely fell in love with it. Rainbow Rowell is an amazing author and she spins a tale that gets you really into the book. There is a lot of swearing in it, and there are some mature themes, but mature kids 14 and over should be able to handle it. I would highly recommend Rainbow Rowell's books if you really enjoy John Green books, because their writing style is sort of the same. I think they should make Fangirl into a movie, because if they did it right, it would be watched a lot. If you liked Fangirl, you should read Eleanor & Park (also by Rainbow Rowell)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written bypeppemints December 13, 2013

Interesting, Fun Story; Mature Teens Aged 14 & Up Can Handle It

Oh, how I LOVE this book! This is definitely one of my favorites. This is perfect for mature teens aged 14 & up. There is swearing, with quite a few F bombs, and occasional descriptions of characters being drunk. The characters, who are at college-age, discuss sexual relationships and kiss passionately. However, this book contains positive messages and role models, such as the main character! Oh, how I LOVE this book! This is definitely one of my favorites. Mature teens can handle it! It's a super fun read!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent Written byamy_dale April 27, 2014

Great voice for Teens

Most people under thirty (and many people over thirty) are edgy these days; our soft, organic, human curves honed to sharpness by the razor edges of technology. Most of us are subtly (or drastically) changed by the way we receive information. Our minds are edgy, as television and movies are edgy – jumping from thought to thought, chore to chore, channel to channel. Rainbow Rowell is edgy, too, and so is her writing. Rowell manages to skim along that razor with skill, keeping pace with the new way we think. Her writing seems effortless. Her fiction is fresh, exciting, and fun, along with being edgy. It’s also very, very real. Fangirl (St. Martin’s Griffen, 2013) is a fairly straightforward story – twin sisters go to college. Each of them finds their own way. They have boyfriends, make new friends, work hard, make mistakes, etc. The rub comes as the sister’s co-dependent relationship crumbles. Cath, the painfully shy main character, is stretched to her limit as her sister Wren abandons her for her new friends. Cath, as she has since she was a teen, copes by burying herself in the world of fiction, particularly the fictional world of Simon Snow: reading it, writing fan fiction, and using it as an escape mechanism. Rowell weaves Cath’s story together with the fictional story of Simon Snow, and then throws in snippets of the fan fiction that Cath writes as well. Taken together, it’s a kaleidoscope of a story, a hall of mirrors in which one plot line is mirrored in another story, and again in another, distorted a bit each time. All of this is sewed together so seamlessly, it’s hard to see the skill involved in making this story sing. But sing it does. Rainbow Rowell is writing great fiction, with great characters, great plot, and a sincere message. Somehow, she gets it just right. The characters shine as individuals; none of them perfect, all of them human and recognizable as facets of ourselves. There is enough movement to sweep you along, enough jumping to keep you tensed and ready to spring, enough humanity to grab hold of your compassion and tug you away from your own world into that of the characters. If you are a fan of John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), you’ll likely enjoy anything written by Rainbow Rowell - they have similar messages and writing styles, and they use unconventional and powerful tools in their story telling that makes them interesting to read for people who have grown up in the digital age. Rainbow Rowell succeeded in making Eleanor & Park one of the best written YA novels of 2013, and she succeeds again with Fangirl. I recommend it for anyone fourteen and up.


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