Confession: I’ve been an obnoxiously slow reader lately. Life has been getting in the way. But last night, I finally finished this book...
It was so wonderfully weird.
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
So if you’re completely unfamiliar with how this book came about, you must first read Rainbow Rowell’s other book, Fangirl (which I’ve somehow neglected to write a review of–to be remedied shortly). Fangirl is about a girl named Cath who writes fanfiction for a series of fantasy books about Simon Snow. In her fanfiction, she pairs Simon up with his archnemesis, Baz and becomes internet-famous with her stories.
Fangirl was an awesome book in its own right, about a freshman in college trying to leave behind the world she created and live in the real one. And throughout, it’s interspersed with excerpts from Cath’s fanfiction, which I have to say, is much better-written than any fanfiction I’ve ever seen. So after that book was out there, Rowell then decided to actually write out Simon Snow’s story. The result is Carry On.
So yeah, this book is all kinds of meta. Firstly, Simon Snow is a parody of Harry Potter: Simon (orphaned, greatest-wizard-that-ever-lived) is Harry, Baz (obnoxious nemesis from an old rich family) is Draco, The Mage (the head wizard you run to in a crisis) is a younger Dumbledore, Penelope (Simon’s smart female BFF) is Hermione, the Insidious Humdrum (the evil one no one can stop) is Voldemort.
There’s also the fanfiction aspect of it. I didn’t know a ton about fanfiction before reading Fangirl. I’m a little bit of a word snob, to be honest, and the fanfiction I’ve dabbled in reading just isn’t as good as fiction in actual books (for the most part). I looked into it more, since I was curious, but still couldn’t find anything I wanted to read long-term. (If I’m missing anything good, please let me know.) And I was definitely unfamiliar with slash–which is when two male characters are paired together. In this case (this isn’t a spoiler if you’ve read Fangirl–and you should) it’s Simon and Baz aka Harry and Draco. So yeah. It’s weird.
But don’t let the weirdness put you off. It’s also a really great story.
Firstly, it’s hilarious. It’s told from multiple perspectives: Simon’s, Baz’s, Penelope’s, the Mage’s, and more. And the voices of each character are just fantastic.
Simon is just the most awkward, bumbling magician/teenage boy ever. You can’t help but love him:
“My mum said that nobody really knew where you came from. And that you might be dangerous.”
“Why didn’t you listen to her?” I asked.
“Because nobody knew where you came from, Simon! And you might be dangerous!”
“You have the worst survival instincts.”
“Also, I felt sorry for you,” she said. “You were holding your wand backwards.”
“People who tell you that slamming and bashing into things won’t make you feel better haven’t slammed or bashed enough.”
“You have too many friends,” she’ll say. “There are only so many hours in the day, Simon. Two, three people—that’s all any of us have time for.”
“There are more people than that in your immediate family, Penny.”
“I know. It’s a struggle.”
But Baz is my favorite:
“Fuck off,” I said. Which always means I’ve lost an argument.
For a moment–not even a moment, a split second–I imagine him saying, ‘The truth is, I’m desperately attracted to you.’ And then I imagine myself spitting in his face. And then I imagine licking it off his cheek and kissing him. (Because I’m disturbed. Ask anyone.)
Just when you think you’re having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.
And the romance… well I don’t want to spoil it. But I loved it, loved every minute of it.
The plot itself left a little to be desired. The first part is Simon wondering where Baz is, then there’s a slow-build type relationship between them, and then finally some action. And the big “surprise” at the end I saw coming from a mile away.
This was an 8/10 novel for me. It was funny and endearing with amazing characters, I would have just liked a *bit* more of a story.
“You have to pretend that you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.”
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