Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
first published by Macmillan on October 6th 2015
- young adult, contemporary, fantasy, lgbtqa
- paperback 528 pages
- find out more on Goodreads
- buy on Amazon / buy on The Book Depository
★★★★★ 5 STARS
Fantasy and Rainbow Rowell, who’d have guessed that they would mix so well? When I first read Fangirl, I wasn’t really a fan of Cath’s fanfiction chapters, and thought it distracted from the novel as a whole. Admittedly, it just felt like a cheap Harry Potter gimmick. So when I found out Carry On was becoming a thing I was… apprehensive, to say the least. And now here we are: me, who is still vaguely hysterical over my love for this book; me, who has a new OTP to top all OTPs; me, who couldn’t recommend a book so highly as this.
“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.”
It’s not a secret that Simon Snow (and indeed the whole Carry On world) is a rehash of Harry Potter, but the fresh new perspective Rainbow Rowell approaches it with is what makes this story special. All the idiocies we always screamed at Harry for are embraced by Rowell’s characterisation; Dumbledore’s corruption that Rowling ignored is reflected in The Mage’s moral ambiguity; even Drarry, one of the most popular slash fanfiction couples, is brought to life in a thrilling, adorable, and believable way. I’ve seen some people DNFed this book because of its similarities to Harry Potter but I would consider it more of a homage. If you’re as familiar with the series as I am then the slight similarities will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside; it’s not, in any shape or form, trying to be Harry Potter – it celebrates the greatness of that series in a special way, whilst also carving it’s own hilarious path.
“Baz’s whole arm is shaking now.
I put my hand on his shoulder to steady him. And I do something I’ve never done before—something I probably wouldn’t try with anyone I was scared of hurting.
I went into this knowing only one thing: Simon and Baz were gonna become a thing. I was really happy to discover that Carry On is so much more than that, though it is the characters who truly make this novel what it is. Simon, the reluctant Chosen One, is dangerously loyal and more-than-a-little impulsive. Words and magic don’t come easily to him but he manages to struggle his way through eight years of schooling, all the while trying to defeat the Insidious Humdrum, an eerie villain who looks like an 11 year old version of himself. His only real talent is ‘going off’, which involves brutally unleashing the raw power that is brimming under his surface, but doing so is dangerous. When Simon and Baz form an unlikely alliance to help track who orchestrated the murder of Natasha Grimm-Pitch, Baz’s mother and former Headmistress of Watford School of Magicks, Simon begins to discover things about his power and how to control it that he never dared think about before.
“He’s still looking in my eyes. Staring me down like he did that dragon, chin tilted and locked. ‘I’m not the Chosen One,’ he says.
I meet his gaze and sneer. My arm is a steel band around his waist. ‘I choose you,’ I say. ‘Simon Snow, I choose you.'”
From their first kiss, I swear I melted every time Simon and Baz spoke to each other. The book’s synopsis sums it up perfectly: “[Carry On] has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.” I would never have imagined that fluff and fantasy could work so well together but they do. Lord they do. I’m a sucker for the whole enemies-to-lovers trope and whilst I’ve never been a Drarry shipper, I do ridiculously enjoy Albus/Scorpius and Rose/Scorpius fanfictions that follow the same formats. There’s just something far more… electric… about the relationship when it finally comes together, if it’s so sparked by such raw emotions. And the actual scene where they first kiss. It blew me away – I didn’t expect it for a second, I didn’t expect how it happened, but I was overjoyed. These two together are so ridiculously cute I can barely function. My only issue is that bisexuality was just… never mentioned… whilst felt a bit off when Simon was questioning his attraction to Baz vs his ex-girlfriend Agatha.
“I want to be someone’s right now, Simon, not their happily ever after.”
Speaking of Agatha, I really enjoyed that Rainbow Rowell showed that not everybody has to be a hero. It’s okay to be terrified, it’s okay to run away, and it’s definitely more than okay to want to lead a life where you are the central character, not just ‘The Chosen One’s girlfriend’. Penny, too. Whilst she would never leave Simon’s side I loved how she diverted from what would be expected. For instance, I didn’t find it that weird that Penny and Agatha stopped talking when she and Simon split up, but I was overjoyed when Penny made a real effort to involve Agatha in some girly, Bechdel passing fun over the Christmas holidays. Simon Snow might be rad, but he doesn’t have to run all of your life yo.
To summarise this rambling review, I am completely, 100%, irrevocably in love with Carry On. The characters, the world: it all. Not only is it laugh-out-loud hilarious, it’s romantic and thrilling all at the same time. If anything, I just wish this had been longer, because I honestly cannot get enough.
you’ll love this if…
- You want a modern homage to Harry Potter in your life.
- You’re 100% here for cute af gay magicians.
- You’ve been searching for something that blends fantasy and reality, the contemporary world and fluffy romance, perfectly. It has arrived.