Fangirling Over Fangirl (Mostly)

FangirlWIPGoing into this, I will admit I didn’t think it would be my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fangirling moments, but I’ve never written fanfic, engaged in it or been properly part of any fandom. So when I heard of Fangirl, a book ostensibly about fanfiction, years ago, I just put it aside as “not for me”. That was until I read Rowell’s Carry On. In the end, rather poetically, my fangirling for that book pushed me to give this a go- and I’m glad it did!

To start with, like all of Rowell’s books, this was a perfect blend of wit and heart. I will be the first to admit that the plot was not all that exciting- but it’s not that kind of book. It’s more the sort of story where the characters take you by the hand and lead you through their world. You get to know them and you fall in love along with them.

And let’s face it: the romance is what you’re here for. It didn’t disappoint. Levi made me smile stupidly every time he talked or turned up. And, of course, any hint of Baz and Simon scenes and I’m gonna be right there- cheering it on! The interspersing of their story into the plot, while not for everyone, was just the dose of warm fuzzies that I needed.

Of course, it was also incredibly relatable. The love of books (even if they’re not real books) came across brilliantly. And while I think that everyone has their own style, so the descriptions of writing aren’t entirely universal, I did enjoy those parts too.

However, this subject also brought up the biggest problems for me. Because Rowell did bring up the question of fanfic and plagiarism in quite an awkward way. I might offend some people here, but there is an issue with repurposing someone else’s work for uni, and I don’t think that Cathy totally got that. The professor’s view was just seen as a bit old fashioned- when in reality universities have to be strict about plagiarism and you can’t use someone else’s work for profit (yes grades count). None of this was addressed. To top it off, there was another character who stole some writing and this was seen as categorically not okay (because it isn’t). It just felt like a bit of a double standard and, considering the juxtaposition of these two ideas, I don’t know why the main character didn’t consider comparing the two incidents. What was even more frustrating is that it was left pretty open ended and I never felt like this issue was actually resolved.

It left me thinking that this had never really been a plot point anyway… which brings me back to the fact that there really is very little in terms of story beyond the romance and relationships. In the end, issues like this receded to background noise. Even the “small matter” of finding oneself didn’t end up as being as important as finding a boyfriend. Ultimately that was enough for me and I found it an enjoyable read, though perhaps not something to go crazy over.

Rating: 4/5 bananas


Have you read this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

48 thoughts on “Fangirling Over Fangirl (Mostly)

      1. I didn’t actually realise that the cameo was happening hahaha someone had to explain it to me, but it was still cute.
        Landline isn’t my favourite. I think Attachments was more my thing, but Rowell is amazing in general.

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  1. I thought that while she maybe didn’t clarify that fanfiction ISN’T okay for a college class, Cath did figure that out on her own. I mean, at the end, she does her best writing when she isn’t writing about Baz and Simon. So even though Rainbow Rowell isn’t explicit, the message still came across. Just my opinion though.

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    1. Fair point- there was that implication- I just felt like those strands were a little open-ended, and while she didn’t necessarily need to clarify (it was a story not an essay) it did leave me with a question mark, which is the only reason I wasn’t head over heels with it. But you’re totally entitled to think otherwise 🙂

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      1. I just kind of liked Cath figuring it all out on her own. I really felt like Cath came into her own as an author after she let go of Baz and Simon. The way Cath finally came into her own as a human being when she let go of her childhood. But I could just fangirl over Fangirl for days, so we can just agree to disagree, haha.

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  2. I checked this out of the library on audiobook and was enjoying it, but had to return it unfinished. So I didn’t get to the part where she writes fanfiction for class. I wonder if Rainbow Rowell left the message ambiguous, however, so as not to offend fans and fan fiction writers?

    I also think there are plenty of students who just do not understand (or want to understand) the importance of doing your own work for classes and who probably wouldn’t see a problem with writing fan fiction. The instructor, I imagine, would want the students to all be on the same page in terms of learning to create their own realistic worlds and fully-fleshed out characters. While fan fiction obviously takes skill, part of its charm is that you get to play around in a world that’s largely already set up for you (or you get to change parts to see what would happen). It’s not exactly the same experience as trying to do everything from scratch. But I can imagine plenty of students who wouldn’t see the issue from this perspective and would just see the time they spent writing dialogue and plotting the action and who would consequently believe their effort should count for a grade.

    Plus I think there’s just a trend for people to see everything as fair game. When you can repost memes, go on sites like Tumblr and repost others’ work without ever generating your own content, when you start thinking, “Well, hey, didn’t Christopher Paolini kind of copy Star Wars and LotR and get published?”, you also start to get people who see the lines of ownership as extremely blurry. And now that fans can easily access creators online, it’s increasingly common for them to see stories as being owned partially by the fans since they “gave it success.” They can go on Twitter and barrage creators with what they want to see in a show until it happens because they feel the creators owe them input since they watched the show for five seasons.

    So…that was long and not entirely related to your review, but, um, here. Have some random observations. I think to sum it up: Rowell probably didn’t want to offend anyone.

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    1. Ahh that’s a shame. But yeah, that seems like a reasonable guess. Unfortunately, by not wanting to offend anyone she ended up bringing up an issue that she never fully resolved (at least in my opinion). The character did go onto write other things as well as her fanfic for her own pleasure, but while the arguments were presented *for* her pov, they were never really challenged- you know? Not that it has to be an essay- but it would have been good if the professor had more of a voice to convince her, or if she’d had a realisation.
      That is *so so* true. The thing that got to me here was that it wasn’t such a huge issue. I mean, it’s just part of being a grownup to realise you can’t always do whatever you want, whenever you want to- especially if you’re being graded. Like I said, she could have just changed the names for the piece she handed in- but didn’t and then complained about getting “caught”. Again, I really think this aspect of growing up could have been explored more.
      And yes, there is that issue that people believe they should constantly be graded for effort- when (and this may be a little harsh on some) merit is what gets taken into account in the end.
      Yes, that is such a huge issue. Internet culture doesn’t foster great practices to prevent plagiarism (imo). Especially because technically they’re not doing anything wrong sharing things in the public domain- but then that means people often don’t know where the line is.
      And yes, that last point is an excellent one- I hadn’t thought about that. It does change the dynamic a bit!!
      Hehe no problem- I really enjoyed your comment- especially since I’ve just written a post on this subject a bit more- so I’m well up for having this discussion!!


      1. Well, I have to say that I think college students are becoming increasingly…either aggressive or independent, depending on how you want to spin it. They aren’t so keen on just doing what the professor wants to get the grade. They seem to feel that they know best and should get to do things their way. And there is value to building knowledge together as a class, which I think most college courses recognize and integrate. However, I think this approach has perhaps obscured for some students that they are indeed paying for the expertise of a professional. If someone has spent thirty years studying something and you’ve just entered college, then, yes, that person should know more than you and you should take their advice seriously. But this is a recognition that, if I were going to make blithe generalizations, I would say is probably something many students only have in hindsight.

        So I can see if Rowell were writing for college students and saying to herself, “Yes, I recognize all these things as an adult but if I put that all out there, the college students may not appreciate it.” It’s like watching the parents in a college course explain how their values changed as their grew older and seeing all the nineteen-year-olds rolling their eyes at the “out of touch” and “overly conservative” “old guy.” Maybe Rowell didn’t want to be eye rolled at? ;b

        I am seeing what seems like an increased trend of authors saying that their worlds and their works belong to the readers. J. K. Rowling started out not so keen on fan fiction, if I remember correctly. Today if you were an author and you said you weren’t comfortable with fan fiction, there would be backlash. I’ve even just seen an author write that readers can pronounce her characters’ names however they want because it’s their reading experience or whatever. Sure, but there is actually a correct way to pronounce the names. But we can’t say that anymore? Because that would take away reader agency??

        My friend insists on pronouncing “Celeborn” with an “s” sound instead of a “k” sound. She’s wrong. Tolkien’s appendices are clear about that. But they don’t stop her from saying it however she likes. They don’t take away her agency to say the name incorrectly.

        As for Internet culture. Sometimes I think it blurs the lines for people. Sometimes I think people just want to claim they don’t understand plagiarism. ;b

        Liked by 1 person

        1. hehehe well I’d go with the term “aggressive” and get more trouble for it 😉 (which kind of proves the point). I also think they’re parroting a very specific set of views that I don’t find all that independent (see what I mean about getting myself into trouble? 😉 ) Yes that’s true- and there is a sense, at least where I’m from, that it’s all about “deserving” the better grade. Yeah I think there is a tremendous issue with people not listening to people with more expertise than them.

          Yes, you’re right- I distinctly remember lawsuits against some people that wrote it- but they did try to sell the work. Now she licences people to do fanfic like Cursed Child, and on the whole seems on board with it. Yes, you’re very right- I can’t imagine it would go down all that well to come out against it. hehehe I know- I think again, it’s that aggressive element coming across a little. I do wish you were allowed to tell people how to pronounce things though (and I say this as someone with terrible pronunciation, since I learn most words from books- I could actually do with someone correcting me!!)

          hehehehe so true!!


  3. Yass, I had the same exact thoughts on the plagiarism bit. I read this in my freshman year of college and her struggles as an awkward, bookish person made her so relatable for me. So glad you liked it! I haven’t read Carry on but I have a feeling it’ll be amazing!

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  4. Ooh currently reading this!! I’m only like a quarter way through so far, and it’s pretty good, but by the end I think I’ll have really enjoyed it! Levi is definitely my favorite character, and I can’t wait to read Carry On after!

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  5. This was my MAJOR complaint with this book — the conversations with the professor about fanfic vs. original content were NOT stressed enough — and personally, I HATED Cath for selling herself so short, she thought anything she wrote that wasn’t fanfic must suck — and the professor tried to build her up and encourage her (which was awesome), and Cath was still like, “Um, thanks, but, no, your views are crap.” The author — who, as a person with copyrighted material on her resume — should have discussed this VERY serious issue a lot more in depth. With the internet, now the topic of plagarism is becoming huge in universities, because so many students aren’t aware that quoting something paraphrased on, say, Facebook, is NOT actual source material — just as an example. It REALLY pissed me off, honestly. It made me decide that Rowell and I will not be having a lasting relationship.

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    1. YES!!!! Agree with you *so much*!! I just felt like the professor could have made *so many* points and she didn’t- which was frustrating :/ Yeah I found that really really immature of the character to be honest- and while she did grow a little- she didn’t really seem to get why it was a problem to write fanfic for uni work. (In all honesty, she’s lucky she went to a liberal college- if she’d done that kind of thing at my uni she’d have been looking at academic misconduct for plagiarism). I agree with you *so much*!! I feel this was made light of when really it’s incredibly serious (I mentioned the consequence in academia, but in the outside world, it means legal action- I think at the very least that should have been pointed out- then maybe she wouldn’t have felt like the teacher was just being mean). That’s very fair.

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  6. Yay! I adore everything Rainbow Rowell has ever written– with Fangirl being close to the top of my list, for sure. I love how the characters are portrayed. They always feel three dimensional. I feel like Fangirl is very relatable, like you said. It’s easy to relate to the challenges Cath is experiencing, even if they are different from your own college experiences.

    I totally agree with you about how Rowell missed an opportunity with the plagiarism idea. It wasn’t fully realized in my opinion. There are a lot of opportunities here to make a serious statement about the topic and help teach younger readers about the importance of it. Sometimes I wonder if this idea was either edited poorly or tossed in as a side note. I would have particularly liked to see Cath get some revenge for her work being stolen while also learning a lesson about content ownership.

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    1. ahh I’m so glad!! I really love Rainbow Rowell- Carry On is one of my favourite books ever!! Me too- and I agree they’re always so well done. Yes so true!!

      Yeah- that’s what I felt to be honest- I don’t think she really clarified anything- which was a shame since she brought the topic up and then just left it hanging. It would have been useful for the prof to talk about the legality at least. Gosh yes- that’s where I thought that was going- at least I thought it would act as a wake up call… but nope, nothing happened :/

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  7. I see the author continues to strive when it comes to the whole romance stuff in all her books. I have yet to see someone truly hate any of her books hahah I also totally agree with the issue you raise. Would’ve been a nice touch if it had been explored further.

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  8. That’s so true what you said about the stealing of the writing by the other student being categorically not okay, but the poor mark for the fanfic writing being shocking, and the whole issue being never fully explored. I confess I read this book and didn’t really notice this! (I think I was sucked in by the character’s surprise/hurt and mostly empathised with her, instead of interrogating it much from the professor’s perspective… probably also because the professor character kind of annoyed me if I’m being honest).

    Now I think about it though, I wonder what I would have done if a student in one the tutorials I used to teach had written fanfic… I likely wouldn’t have been impressed, but not due to thinking of it as straight-out plagiarism (since at least the actual composition is original) but due to the very derivative nature of it. As I think the professor character even says in the book, a big part of the challenge of writing is coming up with your own ideas, situations and characters, so it does seem like cheating/copping out to take someone else’s world and characters and use them for a task like this, especially within this academic context. It’s a tough one though. As you said, it would have been good if the book had explored the issues a little more. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

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    1. Thank you so glad you agree!! Yeah, I did get really swept along, but this caught my attention. I think that was one of my issues- the professor just came across as being difficult, instead of giving her good reasons why it was not okay, and then maybe that would have lessened how much it hurt Cath. I totally got why she was upset, but I also thought she was a clever girl and would have understood if she’d had it all explained to her (therefore avoiding all the angst)
      Yeah I think it does depend on the institution as well how it is taken. Part of what I should have added is how much of a problem this kind of thing would be in the UK- they’re really strict about how much of someone else’s work you can use in the academic sphere over here. And yeah, especially since in this instance it was a part of the challenge to work on the idea as part of the assignment. Yeah- I just thought it could have been expanded on. Thank you so much!!

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      1. Yeah the professor really did come across as being difficult! And in fact, now I think about it, at first I misinterpreted the bad mark Cath got as a genre bias (i.e. the professor not liking the ‘silly wizard romance’, since all the other writing that had been going on in the class was more straight realistic fiction) rather than a plagiarism issue… which maybe was part of why I disliked the professor! It wasn’t till later that I figured it out. You’re right, it would have really been better if she had explained the issue properly (rather than just being stern and disapproving and then later being vague and talking about creativity and self expression) she would have seemed like less of a mean snob and more like a reasonable person!

        Thanks for pointing that out – I now understand the issues with/reactions I was having to those scenes so much better!!

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        1. Yeah there was that element- and I didn’t like the professor either cos of that. YES!! You’re right, it came across as an issue of snobbery rather than anything else- which was a pain, because it could have been a bit more “you have a point and you have a point, now let’s sift through this”
          Thank you for your comment!!

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  9. ACK!!!! How did I miss thus post?! This is one of my FAVORITE contemporaries… you’re so right that it’s all about the romance and is more slice of life than plot based… I don’t mind that as you’re right, it was fun to be sucked into her fangirling world…

    You make a good case though that the plagiarism was not dealt with properly in the story… Kathy making a stronger realization would have been a great growing point for her… A really great review! Funny though how Rowell was able to fanfic HP in Carry On and make money off it because it stood enough apart…

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    1. hehe well I’m glad you found it then!! I really enjoyed it!! Yes!! That was what I loved about it 😀
      Thank you!! Yeah- that’s technically parody though, so if you can’t write satire than the world would have *real* problems (god I love that book- is it obvious? 😉 )

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  10. Totally agree that the romance and relationships seem to be the only fleshed out part of this book. I didn’t like it much because I don’t like open-ended endings. By the end, I didn’t feel like the whole thing with the girls’ mother was wrapped up, which I was more interested in than anything else in the story.
    Yea, didn’t like it much but I kept the book because I like the cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, that makes a lot of sense. I agree with you there- there definitely could have been more polish. hehehe I like the cover too- but I’ve got it on my kindle, so it’s not something I’ve thought about for this one


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