Arts and Entertainment

Rowell’s Best: Favorites from a Fan

Some of Rainbow Rowell’s best works

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Joyce Liao

Though a fairly recent name in literature, Rainbow Rowell has quickly secured her place as the voice of a generation. Originally a columnist and ad copywriter at the Omaha World-Herald, Rowell began writing as a pastime. Best known for her work in the young adult scene, Rowell is a versatile writer that tackles the messiness of life and people as they fall in and out of love. In her books, Rowell plays with time and structure to craft authentic characters. The simplicity and raw emotion of Rowell’s writing creates a profoundness and depth that feels genuine, rather than forced, like a more delicate John Green. Through pop culture references and a modern writing style, Rowell is able to connect to young and old.


“Fangirl” centers around Cath Avery, a Simon Snow fangirl and famous fanfiction writer, who heads off to college with her twin sister, Wren. Once inseparable, Wren decides she wants be independent in college, leaving Cath alone to find her way and figure out who she is. The journey is long and uncomfortable. Cath, for example, stays in her dorm room eating protein bars to avoid the possible awkwardness of the cafeteria and has dance parties in her room. Because of this, Cath is utterly lovable in her relatability, and ends up triumphant because despite pressures to party and stop writing fanfictions, Cath embraces and holds on to who she is. A cast of quirky characters accompanies Cath: her confident, vulgar, but kind roommate Reagan, Reagan’s charming friend Levi, Cath’s lonely and mentally unstable father, and fellow English major Nick.

“Fangirl” is interlayered with excerpts of Cath’s own fanfiction, the magical, Harry Potter-like world of Simon Snow mirroring Cath’s complicated life. The excerpts, though entertaining stories on their own, subconsciously reveal Cath’s frustrations and the lessons she learns. “Fangirl” shines in revealing a unique perspective on college life and is optimistic with the message that people will love you for who you are.


“Landline” is the story of an independent woman, Georgie McCool, who tries to have it all: a career and a family. Georgie, a successful comedy writer, gets a chance to write the show she’s always dreamed of writing, requiring her to skip out on the Christmas family holiday. This creates tension in her already strenuous relationship with her husband, Neal. When calling Neal from her old childhood room, Georgie reaches Neal from 10 years ago, early in their relationship. Through the phone calls, Rowell pieces together an intricate story of Georgie’s past, leaving the future in question as Georgie struggles to decide if Neal would be better off without her.

The paranormal aspect of “Landline” allows Georgie to follow through on the eternal human desire of going back in time, using what we know now to fix our past mistakes. The question raised through Georgie’s inner conflict, if love is enough in a relationship, forces readers to reevaluate the choices that they have made in their lives. “Landline” also does well with making a mature love story ridiculously cute. Georgie’s descriptions of Neal and his romantic gestures are sweet and moving: “Neal didn't take Georgie's breath away. Maybe the opposite. But that was okay—that was really good, actually, to be near someone who filled your lungs with air.” Exploring an older perspective than other Rowell books, “Landline” excels in making deep feelings warm and fuzzy and portraying the complicated but honest visual of a modern woman in an imperfect but real love story.

Eleanor and Park

Arguably Rowell’s most famous work, “Eleanor and Park” offers hope as two disconnected outcasts find each other, and themselves in the process. Eleanor is the new, immediately unpopular girl in town; bullied and from an abusive household, she buries herself in music and books. Park, quiet and with an overbearing father, mostly keeps to himself. Told from dual perspectives, “Eleanor and Park” slowly reveals how the two fall in love in a heartwarming story.

The character of Park strays from the typical, hyper-masculine love interest so often presented in young adult fiction. Instead, Park is a flawed but kind and brave person who enjoys comics and occasionally wears eyeliner. Park’s immigrant mother struck a chord with me because it’s so rare to see first-generation Americans shown in popular books. Throughout the book, Park struggles with his half-Korean identity. He learns to find solace in his mother, Mindy, who, because of her own status as an outsider, is able to understand what Park and Eleanor are going through.

“Eleanor and Park” is a passionate, memorable story because of how deeply emotional it is and how it encapsulates the teenage experience. For Eleanor and Park, life is messy and hard, the way being a teenager is. However, despite hardships, Eleanor and Park have such a strong and heartfelt bond, solidified through mixtapes and ‘80s lyrics, that in both the giddy and the heart-wrenching moments, a sense of hope underlies the book. It is the hope that you are worthy just because of who you are and that life, no matter how bad it seems, always gets better.