Book in Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Pages: Hardcover, 522 pages

Summary (via Goodreads):
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.




Oh my God, this book. I can't properly write a review on it because it's just so asdfghjkl. TOO GOOD. TOO FUCKING ADORABLE.  This is one of my most anticipated books of 2015 and I still cannot believe that this book is actually a THING. And that it's a 500+ pages worth thing. Someone please hold me.

I'm probably being a bad reviewer right now because I can't seem to be objective or fair about this book. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I fangirled, and my God, I swooned! HOW MANY STARS DOES THIS DESERVE? WELL, 5 STARS IT IS.

Okay rambling aside, this book really does deserve 5 shining stars, and I'll elaborate more about it in this review, which I shall try my real best to be coherent in writing about.

But just so you know what I'm talking about, for anyone who hasn't read Fangirl (and why haven't you read Fangirl? You should drop everything and read it NOW!) let's gloss over some details that we do know about Carry On, or at least would need to know about it before reading it.

*Carry On is Rainbow Rowell's take on the Simon and Snow series, a fictional book series that Rainbow created within the story of Fangirl. The main characters are Simon and Baz, two wizards who study at this boarding school for Magik - who are, by the way, also roommates who hate each other. Cath, the main character of Fangirl, writes gay fanfiction about them, which she has spent time writing in the book Fangirl.

*Carry On is not the official Simon Snow book written from the point of view of Gemma (the fictional author of the Simon Snow series in Rainbow's Fangirl) that's squeezed in between chapters of Fangirl, nor is it the fanfiction that Cath (the main character of Fangirl) writes. This is Rainbow's OWN VERSION of the Simon Snow series. So, basically, this book is Rainbow Rowell's fanfiction of a fictional book series that she herself has created in her own work of fiction (Fangirl). Are you confused? Cause I know I am.

*This book is also NOT Harry Potter fanfiction. It may be loosely inspired from elements of Harry Potter, but that is not the only work that has inspired the creation of Carry On. It has drawn inspiration from several other elements and tropes gathered from magical boarding school stories, prophecy stories, Chosen One stories, love-hate relationship stories, and even Harry-Draco fanfiction - but it is a whole story on its own. It explores original characters and original plot points to create a story that is ORIGINAL and Rainbow's work through and through.

Now that we've got all that covered, where do I even begin to describe how much of a literary genius this book is?

What makes Carry On such an amazing piece of work is how meta it is, and the way it being meta actually works. Carry On is purposely designed to ride on fantasy tropes and poke fun at Chosen Ones, prophecies, Dumbledore-esque wizard mentors and all those other elements that we find cliche or formulaic. And just when you think you know what's coming next because everything just seems so familiar and predictable, the story takes a complete 180 degree turn and you're left with something that's absolutely surprising and phenomenal, and indeed, such a breath of fresh air! Carry On is the perfect blend of originality and familiarity. I loved how self-aware this book is, that it knows how it is similar to other books with the same genre, and yet these similarities are done purposely and it pokes fun at itself, never taking itself too seriously. In some way, I can see how this book is a response to HP (or any other book similar to it) but it goes off in a direction that makes it a lot more socially conscious and diversified. In a way, Carry On tackles criticisms that were shot at Harry Potter, like not having enough diversity, not having enough representation, too black and white with good vs evil, Dumbledore's mistreatment of Harry, the lack of agency of some characters, and all that. And just like a kid with a pile of Lego blocks, Rainbow takes these ideas and plot points that were put in place, and then totally destroys them, building something new out of it, deconstructing what we know to be and creating something totally new and transformative.

There is a lot to be said about how Rainbow constructs the world in Carry On. For instance, there is an acknowledgement of technology, multiculturalism, evolving languages that makes this story all the more relatable to us. The Mage actually owns a cellphone and a Range Rover, and the characters use the Internet too, not just the library for research. I also loved how the magical system explained the creation of spells. One of my favorite parts of the story is the explanation of how spells are created and structured:
Magic words are tricky. Sometimes to real something hidden, you have to use the language of the time it was stashed away. And sometimes an old phrase stops working when the rest of the world is sick of saying it...
Words are very powerful...and they become more powerful the more that they're said and read and written, in specific, consistent combinations.
I found that a very interesting take on the power of words and how you can put them together to create spells. Definitely one of the highlights of the book was when the Mage started using Bohemian Rhapsody as a spell. This just further goes on how Rainbow complete builds something new out of old pieces of rubble. Rainbow has contributed something new to the genre, and she's not afraid to do whatever she wants with it. There is no pressure and no expectation, and Rainbow lets the story develop as organically as possible. And in this case, she comes up with a fantasy story that emphasizes on how the romance between two queer characters can save the world.

Which brings me to my next point - the romance between Simon and Baz. Rainbow does not lie and is not subtle about it; this book is definitely first and foremost a love story, more than anything. And I absolutely loved Simon and Baz together and the romance is definitely the main highlight of this book. I loved the dyamic between the two of them. AAAAHHH there were so many sweet and giddy moments that I fangirled so hard! I loved the snarky and witty banter exchanges between them that make them just so perfect for each other. It's even more interesting that the two characters stand on two opposite ends of the war and it was interesting how they reconciled these issues in the end and still were able to be together despite everything. I totally loved how adorable the two of them are together, they're just both so intense, and flawed, and human that they really had this special connection (well of course, this was evident even when they were selected to be roommates!). I have to say that, narrative wise, this is one of the best romances I've ever read because it was handled just right. It felt real and it just got to me how much the two of them loved each other. The struggle of going from feelings of hate over your nemesis to feelings of love over your lover was such an interesting aspect to look into - and I loved how Rainbow tackled the whole concept of reevaluating each other, and getting to know a person even more and realizing you actually like or love them. 

Another thing to note is how the book actually spends more time exploring the relationship between Simon and Baz, and their character developments, instead of the world buiding, which I found absolutely fitting. Although this is technically Simon's 8th year already, we no longer needed to read about his first 7 years because it is more interesting to know where the real story starts - when the prophecy becomes important to Simon's life and when Simon and Baz's relationship go to the next level. Definitely, Rainbow knows when to start a story and she's able to explain the whole context without overly doing it.

Carry On is such a clever, fun, lighthearted, whimsical and enjoyable book, and despite it being that, it still succeeds in being serious and making a commentary on social issues. It is one of the most sincere and heartfelt books I've ever read in a while, and I would recommend it 10/10! Despite it being such a light and easy read, that I breezed through it in one sitting as I laughed through the book, there is definitely something more to be read between the lines, something more profound, an insight on love and loss, that will leave you swooning over this epic love story for months!

FAVORITE QUOTES
“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.”
“The whole prophecy is bollocks," I say. "'And one will come to end us. And one will bring his fall.' Did I also bring my own fall?""No," Baz says. "That was me. Obviously.""How did you bring my fall? I stopped the Humdrum myself."Baz looks back at his phone, bored. "Fell in love, didn't you?” 
“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.)”


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4 comments

  1. This is probably the first review of Carry On that I've read (even though I have a copy) so I'm SO glad to hear you loved it!! I fell so completely in love with Fangirls so when I heard Simon and Baz were getting their own book I was ecstatic!! And I'm so glad Rowell did them justice :D Awesome review!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf

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  2. AAAH I LOVE THIS BOOK. Rainbow's one of my favourite authors anyway, but...Carry On is particularly close to me heart. I'd been waiting for it for so long that I thought it might not live up to expectations! BUT I ENJOYED IT SO MUCH.
    You make a really great point about the mixture of original/familiar and the response to Chosen One narratives -- I loved that the characters grew from their Harry Potter parallels to make a story in its own right. I'm really glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did! :)

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  3. AAAH I LOVE THIS BOOK. Rainbow's one of my favourite authors anyway, but...Carry On is particularly close to me heart. I thought it might not live up to my expectations but IT WAS FABULOUS.
    And you make a great point about the mixture of originality & familiarity -- I love that all the characters grew from their Harry Potter parallels to make a story in its own right. I'm really glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did!

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  4. I am so glad that you loved this one! I recently bought a copy and I can't wait to get into it!!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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