Rainbow Rowell – Carry On
80. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (2015)
Length: 528 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Started: 21 December 2015
Finished: 24 December 2015
Where did it come from? Got the e-book from the library.
Why do I have it? After I finished (and loved) Fangirl, I knew I had to read this one too.
Boy wizard is the
Chosen One… but this time his
name isn’t Harry.
Summary: Simon Snow is in his seventh year of the Watford School of Magicks, and is widely believed to be the chosen one, and the only one who can stop the Insidious Humdrum – an evil and mysterious force that wears Simon’s face and sucks the magic out of wherever it appears. But Simon – who has been known to perform fantastic acts of magic when faced with dangerous situations, but who fails at even the simpler regular spells – has something else on his mind. Baz, his roommate-slash-nemesis for the past six years, hasn’t returned to school yet, and Simon is convinced that it means that Baz is up to something particularly evil – he is a vampire, and also a complete git, after all. The Mage, ostensibly Simon’s mentor, seems preoccupied with the divide between the Old Magic families and the rest of the wizarding world, and Agatha, his best friend, thinks he’s blowing things out of proportion like usual. But how’s Simon supposed to be the Chosen One if he can’t even figure out what his roommate is up to?
Review: Oh, this was good, you guys. This was so good. This was everything that’s good about Rainbow Rowell’s other books – all of the talking and kissing and sweet tenuous teen romance, stirred in with a heavy dollop of magic and Harry Potter familiarity. Although I do have to say, for all that this is obviously a Harry Potter fan fic, it’s also really kind of… not. The basic structure is the same (Chosen One, wizarding school, nasty bad guy with some strange connection to our hero, braniac best friend, make Draco a vampire and even more obsessed with Harry than he already is and you’re there), but Carry On really is its own thing. The world of Carry On does not work the same as the world of Harry Potter, and there are different themes, different interpretations, and quite a few subtle jabs that are purposefully the opposite of what a Potter-phile might expect. (In particular, when the Mage says “You’re too young to hear this, Simon. Eleven is too young. But it isn’t fair to keep any of this from you any longer.” I think I actually laughed out loud at this; my notes just say “Ha! He’s the Anti-Dumbledore.”)
Even beyond the Harry Potter comparison, Carry On is kind of a weird beast. It began as snippets of a book-within-a-book; in Fangirl, the main character, Cath, writes fanfic for a wildly popular series about a boy wizard named Simon Snow. Fangirl contains chunks of the first six Simon Snow novels, as well as chunks of the fanfic version of the (not yet released) seventh novel as written by Cath. Carry On is that seventh novel, although not as written by Cath, but as written by Rainbow Rowell (who was of course also writing the pieces that were “written” by Cath in Fangirl). Confused yet? Don’t be. For the most part, Carry On stands completely on its own, completing its worldbuilding pretty effectively even though it’s supposed to be the seventh book in a series. (Of course, I’d read Fangirl, so I knew the basic story and who the characters were already, so I can’t evaluate how clear Carry On would be if I were starting completely from square one. But I think it’d still be pretty understandable.)
That “seventh-book-but-not-really” worldbuilding did make the beginning of this book seem a little slow. Or maybe it was slow because Baz doesn’t show up until well over a hundred pages into the book. I’m not going lie, I was totally here for the romance between Simon and Baz, so when one of your two ostensible romantic leads doesn’t even show up for the first chunk of the book, it kind of feels like it’s taking a while to get to the good stuff. But once Baz shows up again, then things just started getting fantastic. The development of the love story was so well done (unsurprisingly: this is Rowell we’re talking about), honest and believable and sweet, and like real teenagers. I also really liked how Rowell handled the fact that her two characters (Simon, for sure) didn’t identify as gay prior to falling for each other, and was willing to have them be somewhat conflicted about the feelings they’re having for another guy, but without getting “gay panic”-y about it or turning it into A Thing. And also, there is some sexy handholding, and we all know how on board I am for that. And frankly, even though broody, arrogant vampires aren’t normally my thing, Baz is kind of the best; he’s got just the right amount of the right kind of snark and hidden doubts underneath his outer bravado.
Not everything in this book fits together as well as it could have, mostly when it comes to the backstory / wider world outside of Simon and Baz’s immediate sphere of concern. For example, I thought the character of Ebb wasn’t developed as well as she should have been by the end. I also thought some of the “revelations” were fairly obvious (who really sent the vampires that killed Baz’s mother, for example.) But overall, this book was hugely enjoyable, and while part of me wishes I could read the first six Simon Snow books, most of me thinks that Carry On is a perfectly satisfying portion that has all the best parts of the (non-existent) series. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: This is one of those great books that I think will appeal to fantasy readers who don’t normally go for contemporary teen romance, as well as to contemporary teen romance readers who don’t normally read fantasy novels. And of course, if you like both of those genres, or have always thought that maybe Draco Malfoy was just a little *too* obsessed with Harry Potter (and vice versa) to be completely innocent, then you are going to love this book. It’s only been a few months since I read it and I already want to go back and re-read.
Other Reviews: Plenty of them at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: I walk to the bus station by myself.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- Location 756: “I felt naff, but in the photo – well, I look fine.” – Unstylish, clichéd, or outmoded.
- Location 2946: ““Not as wrong as you bringing me bacon butties.”” – a sandwich.
- Location 4079: “Thirty-seven years old, rolling my own joints in my dressing gown, eating bikkies for breakfast whenever I manage to get up – I’m a disgrace.”” – Cookies (short for “biscuits”). Also means ecstacy (from “disco biscuit”) but I don’t think that’s what’s meant here.
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