Fangirl Reviews Fangirl, Vol. 1: The Manga by Sam Maggs, Rainbow Rowell, Gabi Nam

Prepare for an epic Battle of the Books in this review of Fangirl VS Fangirl, vol. 1. I’m going to start with an alarming statement: This adaptation was making me hate my all-time favorite book.


Nothing might top the excitement I felt before opening this illustrated adaptation of my favorite book. Maybe having a movie adaptation. This is the closest I might get to that wish. I thought it was going to be like having fanart of all my favorite scenes. I mean, I have two reviews up on my blog where I talk all about my love for these characters: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi) & Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. And even more reviews of Rowell’s other books. Landline was a recent favorite for all the introverts seeking love.

Of course, I couldn’t tame the temptation of starting this book even though I was a week before an important exam… This perfectly mirrors my experience of reading Fangirl back in January 2014 for the first time, also known as the night before my math exam. I started the book before going to bed thinking it would help calm my nerves before the exam and help me fall asleep… Oh, I had to force myself to part from this book at 2am – not because I was tired (Fangirl made me feel alive) but because I couldn’t possibly think straight if I didn’t go to sleep right then and there. It’s funny the way life circles back to you.

I remember my thoughts at school that day, after reading Fangirl into the night, centered entirely on Levi. I had never before expended such intense emotions for a book. I missed being away from these characters. Is that love?

I felt like talking about Fangirl to anyone willing to listen like these characters were real people I knew. I had to hold myself back from letting all my thoughts spillover. What an experience… It’s what made me start looking for more books to read instead of browsing for new popular Wattpad stories (fans of The Cellphone Swap hit me up*).

I can’t put into words all that Fangirl got me through. It was my first physical copy of a book I loved. When I’d get bored with whatever library book I was reading Fangirl would be the book I would reach for. Anytime I was sad or anxious, I would flip to a page in Fangirl to cheer me up. Anytime an important event happens in my life I hear quotes from the book in my head mirroring my thoughts. Like when starting something new and hearing Cath’s “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)” Y’know, the best of lines. 

Bottom line: This book means the world to me.

I thought I was being patient by taking my time with this adaptation instead of devouring it in one sitting. I even wrote in my notes: me being able to actually put the book aside to sleep before an important day? You know what that is growth.

I was even glad for my patience because I needed the comfort of this world after the monstrosity of that exam. In hindsight, it wasn’t patience so much as avoidance of the impending disappointment that was slowly creeping up the more I read on.

It started out fine enough at first with the initial excitement still shaping my reading experience. I was just so grateful to be back in a world I so love and cherish with new insight. Then came the first few moments of doubt creeping in with thoughts like, “Huh, why did they change that?” “Huh, why did they leave that out?” I pushed it aside thinking it was just the first few pages getting used to this storytelling. The more it happened the heavier my disappointment. In some cases having lines omitted was a big no-no. Her waking up in a new place voiced one of the most iconic lines. Why get rid of it? At one point, I started numbering each disappointment so it would be easier to find for my final review. I took endless notes. I stopped enjoying the storyline and was more focused on what next iconic line would be reduced. My only hope was to reach my favorite scene with Levi, aka reading The Outsiders.

Narrator: And that’s when she realized this is the first installment out of four and what if it ends before the best of scenes appears and she would have to wait who knows how many months more. Despair set in.

Spoiler: I hate that I skipped ahead. To my disappointment, the narrator was right. This installment ends right when things were supposed to pick up in the storyline.

I remember being utterly shocked at my realization that I was actually not enjoying this book. At all. And that’s why I wasn’t devouring it in one sitting. How was it that deep inside I knew (aka my avoidance) but it took a full day for my head to catch up? Freud was right all along. I never even considered myself being unhappy with this book as an option. It was either love or super love. Oh, youth.

Throughout my reading experience, I kept feeling like this manga was just here to complete a deadline because it took all the best lines from the book and put them on paper and c’est tout – nothing is happening on the page to bring the words alive. We already read the storyline once. The words existed before this point. This book can’t depend on the words moving us. So the art should be here as a distraction from the words. Make me feel the storyline through art so that we don’t depend on the words to move the story along. We already know what happens.

Also, it made it extremely hard to empathize with Cath in here when all her inner dialogue is essentially gone and we’re only left with what she says to others, which can come across as quite aloof and rude. Like Levi put it in the original book: “I can see why you and Reagan hit it off.” He got up to follow her. “You can both be extremely brusque sometimes.”

He’s right that other people might perceive her that way, but in Fangirl when you read her inner monologue, you can empathize with her actions. This is not the case in this manga adaptation when the majority of her inner monologue is wiped away.

Me agreeing with Wren? Unheard of. Until now. This scene might’ve legit unleashed my wrath. It triggered my flight or fight response.

In the book, you can see Cath feeling overwhelmed before this scene by all the new territory and the accompanying intense fear and anxiety she’s experiencing. You get inside her head. Here you just get this scene where her sister is trying to include her and Cath’s like, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Give us some character building so we’re on Cath’s side here. You can’t just dump it on us and expect to side with her. And one page of seeing her lonely isn’t going to cut it. We need to get inside her head.

Case in point of info dump #1:

So much T E X T.

I was supposed to get all the feels when seeing Levi… Instead, I was perplexed by the choice of art wherein Abel looks more like Levi than Levi does. I mean, let me ask the audience:

THAT’S ABEL?? He literally looks like Levi on the cover art of Fangirl…

I mean even her dad looks more like Levi than Levi does in this adaptation…

I am confusion.

Levi looks more like Gansey from The Raven Cycle with this golden prep boy aesthetic. Let’s all recall that he’s supposed to be a cute farmer boy in green Carhartt.

I guess my main disappointment in this volume stems from the art – not the style but the fact that it doesn’t add anything to the storyline. It’s like when the choreography to a song is about what the lyrics are literally saying, instead of moving your body to the feel of the song so that the audience can feel it too. I want to be moved by the words through art and not have the art transcribe the text. This is especially seen in the above info dump #1.

Shouldn’t that be the whole point of adapting a book that already exists into comic book format or manga? To re-experience the story through the art so that it feels like reading it for the first time. This is not that. These characters don’t move. There’s no life in them. I can’t imagine them talking when I close the book, you know? In the best of books, you can imagine the characters moving outside the storyline. That’s what fanfiction is about when the world is so alive you can imagine any scenario with your faves. This is what it felt like in the original book. It works so well in the original because the inner dialogue is so integral to the story.

This adaptation was making me hate my all-time favorite book. Dangerous territory for me because sir, those are my emotional support characters.

I feel like Cath when Reagan is critiquing her poster: “leave them alone, they’re in love.” They took the best parts of the book and barely gave it the time of day it deserved. All the best moments are either left out or just done poorly. I wanted this adaptation to feel like when I see fanart of my favorite scenes: Alive. I left grossly let down. And you can see I wrote this whole thesis to let it all out.

The only thing that benefited from this manga style was the Baz and Simon storyline, which is all too easy to skip over in the original book, but really fit in with this format. Maybe that’s because in Fangirl they appear so stiff and formal that this book could only benefit them.

I have this tiny sliver of hope that the next volume will pick up in speed and align the art more with the feel of the book. Also, I hope it features my favorite reading scene… All that’s keeping me afloat right now.

I guess this is why some things are better left imagined in your head rather than see it executed poorly. This is why we can’t have good things. Read my reviews of the original book instead to get a good laugh and a feel for how good this was supposed to be: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi) & Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I have no other words left, only this line from vine which says it all: Fuck your chicken strips.

  • Fans of the story until Chapter 18 iLike Him because Tallon turns into a stranger real quick from teasing and joyful to brooding and low-key annoying.

Support this thesis of a review by checking this book or its rival through Amazon preview:

Psychology Student Reviews The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

As a Psychology student, it was compelling to dive into this prequel already knowing who Snow will become. This was a chance to use a retrospective look to see what happened in someone’s past that led them to become the person they are today. Oh, Dr. Gaul.

I’ll dive right in with a number of things that planted red flags along the way:

  • How Snow views Lucy Gray as his creation, his possession. His. Be prepared to riot at this next line:

“In some ways, it had been better to have her locked up in the Capitol, where he always had a general idea of what she was doing.”

  • His suspicions of everyone can turn a simple person into the devil by his overthinking. People with anxiety tend to interpret negatively things that aren’t quite clear. He takes that anxiety and turns it so much so that it can almost be painted as paranoia.
  • His lack of empathy when people suffer. Biggest red flag: his friend gets hurt and his main worry is getting blamed and punished if something worse happens. And when the parents of the friend rush in, which is when most people would go to reassure them, Snow is thinking first and foremost of himself:

“He didn’t know what the Dovecotes had been told, but he had no interest in talking to them, especially before he’d worked out his story.”

Big red flag. Huge.

  • He imitates emotions he thinks people expect him to feel in that moment, instead of sitting to uncover his real emotions. This is especially evoked in front of the cameras where he can make up a whole new persona.
  • He excuses his actions to clear himself of all guilt. He’s a great lawyer; the devil’s advocate. I was especially shocked when he dared to say this next line after the unthinkable happened to Sejanus: “And who knew? Maybe the cookies would keep coming.”

We’re rioting.

It was equally concerning to read the class discussions like, “How do we get more people to watch the Hunger Games?” And the one voice of reason, Sejanus, is being pushed aside like a madman. I had to actively remind myself that Sejanus is the good guy in a sea of bad. It’s all about who controls the narrative. This story is being told through Snow’s eyes. Don’t get distracted.

It’s disconcerting that the message of this book is either you riot against someone like Dr. Gaul and end up [redacted] like Sejanus, or you become her pet like Snow.

Which brings me to the point that we’re here for characters like Lucy Gray, not for Snow’s class homework 101 on how to be a dictator.

“Afraid of Dr. Gaul. Afraid of the Capitol. Afraid of everything. If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life . . . then how did you survive? Not by trusting them, that was for sure. And if you couldn’t trust them, who could you trust? All bets were off.”

More point on the other characters:

  • The one thing that kept circling around in my mind was how Tigris would view Snow’s presidency. We see how much she sacrifices of herself for her cousin Snow. Yet in the end, we’re left with barely any mention of her. Unfortunate. I have a tiny sliver of hope that she would actively disapprove because she was always the voice of reason when he talked badly about people.
  • Lucy Gray is like a poor Disney princess who has to act graceful with the Capitol’s children even though she’s starving because of their families. This book should’ve been from her perspective. She deserved more page time, or at least her own POV. Her games were so rushed over, especially the ending. She deserves better.
  • Oh, but the loveliest moment of them all: “Hey, you found some katniss.” “Some people call them swamp potatoes, but I like katniss better. Has a nice ring to it.”

I do have to say after a certain point in the book, I couldn’t wait to finally escape the boring everyday routine of academic life. Luckily, the author immediately replaces it with everyday military life… Help. I can’t read any more details of the meals they ate and how everything had to be organised. Oh, and the amount of songs featured in this book? No, thanks. I’m good. It was like each chapter featured at least one, if not four. But I do have to add, the history on The Hanging Tree song was a nice touch.

All in all, I do appreciate that the author returned to this world. Now, when I catch Catching Fire references on my timeline or any talks about the Capitol or the games, I feel like I have insider information thanks to this prequel.

Midnight Sun might be next on the list.

Check out the prequel to the Hunger games through this excerpt:

New Moon Gave Me Trust Issues

Going into this right after Twilight, I was begging and hoping I wouldn’t be let down. Twilight surprised me with how much fun I had with it. It was silly and over-the-top and romantic and problematic. All the components for a great book to live-tweet. Which I did. Along with a review. It brought me out of my quarantine funk and gave me something to look forward to, however silly it may be.

I realized when it comes to Twilight you have to kind of leave logic behind, what with all the angst, drama, and you know, vampires vs werewolves. I was prepared for that side. I was not prepared for New Moon. Oh, how I wish I would’ve been prepared for New Moon.

Buckle in for the journey that is the second book in the Twilight series. True to form, it contained all the ups and downs. Read along to discover if there were more ups than downs. It began innocently enough:

Cue transitional music traveling back to the start

  • “Well, Gran, you might have noticed that my boyfriend glitters. It’s just something he does in the sun. Don’t worry about it….”
Hmmm, will this ever feel normal. . . .
  • I sighed. “Do you want me to watch this alone?”
    “No, I’ll mostly be watching you, anyway.”

The hilarity of them watching Romeo and Juliet together.

  • The info dumps at the start were driving me mad. they’re the equivalent of “previously on…” and I remember all too clearly what happened in the first book. . . I HAD JUST READ IT. Trust me, Carlisle’s backstory can wait to be repeated later on.isak
  • “But what would I do without you?”
    “Whatever you were doing before I came along and complicated your existence.”
    He sighed. “You make that sound so easy.”
    “It should be. I’m not really that interesting.”

Where is the lie? 1es2kmAlso: Good old fashioned relationship troubles with Bella and Edward? I relish that now, coming from the other side of this book.

  • Speaking of Bella being uninteresting:

“As far as Rosalie was concerned, I was an unwelcome intruder into her family’s secret life.”

And she is right. I low-key love Rosalie. She’s the only one to put Bella in her rightful place. In what universe is Bella adored by all vampires? In the same universe where she makes them runoff from their own home?meme

  • “Well, that’s everyone,” I sighed. “I can clear a room, at least.”
Read the room: you don’t belong with the Cullens
mean girls
I fear this will become a recurring theme. And meme.
  • “If I develop this film,” I said, toying with the camera in my hands, “will you show up in the picture?”
I forgot that the humor in this series isn’t all that bad. Though, I feel like Twilight had more of it than this angsty follow-up book.
Adding to that, I got to wondering late one night. Whenever Bella gets ready in the morning, Edward just sits there waiting for her to be done. Do vampires not use the bathroom or brush their teeth? asking for a friend.
  • Back to the melodrama, and no, I’m not talking about Lorde’s album. Unfortunately. We’re back to the same old same old:

“Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut—that hardly deserves the death penalty.”
“It’s still my fault.”
My words opened up the floodgate.
“Your fault?”

Even Edward is amazed at how she seeks to punish herself. That’s saying a lot.

“I’d rather die than be with Mike Newton,” I protested. “I’d rather die than be with anyone but you.”
“Don’t be melodramatic, please.”

This is where their age difference comes to play.

Also: is she going to repeat this statement throughout the book? We’re tired,

“I didn’t realize that you were capable of being reasonable.”
This whole “don’t get harmed & bleed or i’ll feel triggered to kill you because i’m a vampire” is getting worse and worse. There’s only one simple solution yet neither seemed reasonable enough to go through with it.sana

“The guilt made my head bow and my shoulders slump. I’d run them out of their home, just like Rosalie and Emmett. I was a plague.”

Yes! If you can’t dump Edward because you’re too attached to him, at least think of the people around you suffering because of your decision.

  • “When you say we—,” I whispered.
    “I mean my family and myself.” Each word separate and distinct.”

Does it have to be spelled out for Bella to understand that she’s not part of the Cullens?


“I won’t put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I’d never existed.”

When this moment arrived I was astonished. And then I realized what it meant: F R E E D O M. If anything, I was glad to get a break from their daily quarrels that weren’t going to clear themselves up anytime soon. I was over the moon giddy, actually.

On the one hand, after spending so much of Twilight with Edward at Bella’s disposal, I was excited to see what she had to offer without him at her side 24/7. I wanted that character development. Save yourself in this one, for once. However, what I soon came to realize was that we either get an obsessed Bella going on and on about her vampire-boyfriend made of marble or we get a lifeless Bella moping on and on about Edward being gone. . . choose your fighter.

And then, it struck me. I had stumbled onto a larger beast than anticipated. Bella without Edward is… mind-numbingly boring. I was seriously contemplating skipping pages to when Edward shows up. The realization hit that Bella’s infuriating without him and she’s infuriating with him, but at least Edward keeps it interesting.

And no, the plot convenience of Edward appearing in her head was not working for me. It’s an obvious ruse to appease the fans. We want the real deal, not an illusion.

It has to be said. The truth can’t escape me at this point: I’m here solely for Edward and Jacob. Or at the very least, I’m not here to be tortured by Bella Swan. So I guess, good luck with New Moon. This is my cry for help. I came unprepared.

“The next few hours were agony.”

Is that Bella or me reading New Moon? I am desperately looking for the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

At this point, it has to be said: Twilight peaked at… Twilight.
i said what i said
  • Of course, we all know why the author swept away the Cullens so quickly. Make way for our new brooding hero: *Cue the song Kiss Me in She’s All That* “The new – not improved, but different – Jacob Black.jacob black
  • Does this mean that I have to care about a whole new cast of characters now? I do not have it in me, Bella. We’re tired.imagine

I guess, anything to get out of Bella’s mind. But I had an inkling before diving into this book – I even wrote myself a reminder before opening the first chapter – that the author would ruin Edward and Bella so as to make way for our new – not improved, but different – hero (I’m having way too much fun with the She’s All That references). I literally wrote a note titled, “Things to remember in case Edward’s character gets ruined in the follow-up books.” The list wasn’t long, but still.

To backtrack, what I noticed pretty early on is that in order to enjoy Twilight I had to go into it with an open mind and zero preconceived notions. I just didn’t realize I would have to do so with each book in the series. So once I let go of my exceptions for the follow-up book, I could just let things run wild. Let the Cullens be gone for most of the book, who cares? Not this open-minded gal. Let a new cast of characters take over. I’m fine.i'm fine

You know, as long as I’m reading and being distracted from quarantine life, I’ll take it.

  • What is reading the Twilight series like? Reading this with a straight face: “Is that all? Really?” he interrupted me, a smile breaking across his face. “You’re just scared because I’m a murderer? That’s the only reason?”

side eye

  • “Can you stay out of trouble for one hour?” she asked skeptically. Then, before I could answer, she held up one finger and closed her eyes. Her face went smooth and blank for a few seconds.”

How hopeless is Bella? Alice has to actually foresee the future to answer that question.

  • I really thought Romeo and Juliet was just an innocent mention at the start of the book. Oh, boy, if only I knew.


  • “I watched the figures moving across the little screen, but I couldn’t even tell if the movie was supposed to be a romance or a horror film.”

This reads like a review of Twilight.

  • The race to get to the Volturi was more fast-paced than the entirety of New Moon. Oh, but how convenient for the author to suddenly have Bella turning into a vampire be considered for the greater good so we can’t criticize her in the future.
  • Speaking of, I feel like the author made the book without Edward so unbearable so that when she finally gives him back to us, we’re supposed to be thankful and realize Edward carries the entire series on his back. I can’t figure out if that’s a genius move on her part or not.

I feel like I went into New Moon so naive, and by the end of it, I left utterly destroyed. I was, for one, not expecting Edward to be gone for the majority of it. I am still struck by that fact. It definitely added to my trust issues. I have no idea what to expect now with the following books in the series. I even wrote at one point in my notes that I want to make fun of him, but I’m so Edward deprived that I don’t care what he says right now. What a trick! After reading Twilight, New Moon seems like its evil twin.

On that note, another complaint with New Moon that I hope to get resolved in the next book is that there are barely any intimate or tender scenes lingering between Bella and Edward. I went into this series thinking it was more romance based instead of being so heavily focused on the plot. I mean does Stephenie Meyer think I chose this series to freshen up my memory on vampires? Who cares about the Volturi? Give me scenes with Edward and Bella. Scenes where they’re not fighting for once. I just wanted that moment of sweet reunion to last longer than one page… I’m here for the romance is what I’m saying.

But you know as long as I’m invested enough to continue, I will. I just hope that as the series grows it will focus less on the history of vampires – because I don’t remember signing up for Vampires 101 – and give us more of what we’re all here for. . .

My in-detail commentary as I read along can be found down here:

If you’re looking for a distraction, be sure to snatch a copy of New Moon for yourself to reminisce or read along with me: