|External Links:||Rainbow Rowell.com Fangirl page|
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Cath and Wren are twins who, while growing up, found comfort in the Simon Snow fandom after their mother left them. As they start college during the book, Wren is trying to grow away from fandom and Cath to let go after Simon Snow got her through those rough times. Cath, the protagonist, is a Simon/Baz-shipping BNF who is writing a Simon Snow fanfic while anticipating the final Simon Snow book. At college, Cath deals with social anxiety, distance from her sister, and a professor who believes that all fanfiction is plagiarism.
The story focuses at first on Cath's anxiety and struggles to maintain her fannish lifestyle in the face of her roommate Regan's ever-present boyfriend Levi, who seems to have feelings for her. She also deals with Wren discovering alcohol and clubbing, and is hurt when her sister makes fun of Simon/Baz one night. Their father's emotional breakdown only adds to the stress pile, as does Wren developing alcohol poisoning and a surprise visit from their mother, whom Cath still deeply resents for leaving them.
Eventually, Cath manages to sort out her feelings and find life away from her laptop, while still maintaining her identity as a fan. Levi takes an interest in her fanfiction and asks her to read it to him, Regan gives them her blessing to start dating after admitting to Cath she and Levi broke up some time ago, and Cath makes amends with her sister, who rekindles her own love of Simon Snow.
Cake Evangelista wrote a very positive review in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, saying, "“Fangirl” beautifully captures my own sentiments about being a fan. Its story will resonate with people who have ever loved a piece of pop culture to the point of distraction." A lot of the book's fans find Cath relatable, especially those who suffered social anxiety and needed to overcome it.
Alyssa Rosenberg was more critical, saying "Fandom deserves a novel that doesn’t treat it like a pale substitute for life, when fan communities can be such a major component of it." 
A third interpretation can be the message of balance: Cath using fandom to avoid life is treated as unhealthy, but she shows no signs of giving it up forever once she comes out of her shell. In addition, the beginning of the book mentions the pressure she feels as a BNF and how finishing her magnum opus within a certain time period feels like a chore rather than a pleasure. Cath's sister also still reads Cath's fic and begins to beta the story for her, and the book ends with Cath and her friends showing up in cosplay to see the final movie.
The book itself inspired a decent amount of fanfic about the Cath/Levi ship and the characters themselves, but also gave birth to a fandom for the fictional Simon Snow series. Fans eagerly wrote Simon/Baz and Agatha/Penelope fic, wanting to fill in the blanks left by Fangirl's carefully parceled-out snippets of the series. Naturally, many were ecstatic when Carry On hit the shelves, officially canonizing "SnowBaz" and giving some much-needed backstory and worldbuilding to the fictional series that left them craving more.
Fanfic of "Fangirl"
- Fansplaining: The Dark Fantastic (2015)
- Fansplaining, a podcast "by, for, and about fandom," interviewed Rainbow Rowell in October of 2019. Topics covered included the writing of Fangirl and the fandom experiences that inspire Rainbow’s fiction.
- What it means to be a fangirl Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 2, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-16)
- Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’ Would Be Better If It Had More To Say About Fandom, Alyssa Rosenberg on Think Progress, October 8, 2013 (accessed 2013-11-16)