Book Reviews

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

Finally!

I read it!

Carry On.jpg

It only took me four years (it feels like much longer) but I impulse bought Carry On yesterday (because I have a problem) and then compulsively read it all in one sitting, (because I couldn’t stop). I got 200+ pages in and thought, “Oh, I’ll  just take a little break, beat the next gym in Pokemon Shield, come back to it later,” except that it drew me back in with it’s promises of gay and shenanigans, and probably gay shenanigans, so next thing you know I’m back in the book, wanting to both hug and give some strongly worded lectures to the lead characters.

“I’d eat butter with a spoon if it were acceptable.”
Honestly? Same.

I make it no secret that I am a HUGE Draco/Harry shipper (not a fan of calling it Drarry, however). I’ve supported an alternative head canon of Hogwarts that is incredibly more inclusive and hilarious for over a decade, to the point where I haven’t reread the HP stories because they are so much less then what I would like them to be now that I’ve been spoiled by fan fiction, and speaking of…

Carry On is so meta it hurts; a book based on fan fiction from another book but that also draws heavily from the Harry Potter universe. I haven’t read Fangirl by Rowell, but Carry On is supposedly the fan fic that the main character was working on during that story.

It’s delicious, like someone handed you a huge plate of donuts that will never make you feel ill or give you cavities.

So, you can’t really review Carry On without discussing it’s similarities to Harry Potter. A Chosen One comes of age at eleven, gets whisked away to a magical school, and must return to the nonmagical world every summer. There is a Very Bookish Girl, a Emotionally Unavailable Headmaster, and a Rude, Aristocratic and Handsome Rival, and a Big Bad that everyone is afraid of and no one seems to understand.

But the differences are there, too. The magic system felt very contemporary and clever; spells are common phrases and sayings that over the years have gathered power, and the magical community relies on non-magic users to keep those phrases in use, as well as for creating new ones.

Wizards regularly use cell phones and can drive cars (legally, and on the ground). They use pop culture references and even, occasionally, do things without the aid of magic. But that’s enough comparing! Let’s get on to the characters and plot!

Simon: Chosen One, a young man so powerful his magic is described like “a cup under a waterfall”, too bad he has very little control over it.

Baz: Snarky, handsome, rich, handsome, maybe a vampire???? Absolutely my son. Uses his sarcasm as a way to hide his cinnamon bun center.

Penelope: Smart, cute, constantly frustrated with her male counterparts. Same.

Agatha: Too much like some of the worst people I’ve met. Rich, into manicures and horses, wears Uggs and leggings, throws herself at guys. I’d forgiven her by the end of the book, but really- Agatha? Single use plastics are bad, if I could stick things to the wall with magic instead of tape, I would.

The Mage: Hmmm…


Our story follows Simon as he returns for his final year at the magical school of Watford. He has spent the last eight years of his life with the threat of The Insidious Humdrum looming over him, a huge danger with a silly name that runs around wearing the form of eleven year old Simon. Every attack, every whisper of chaos is connected to the Humdrum, as are the many “holes” that are appearing across the U.K. pockets of air and land where the magic has literally been sucked from the land, leaving it desolate and strange to the investigating wizards.

But all that aside, Simon is happy to be returning to the one place he considers home, and if it wasn’t for his room mate, Baz, constantly making him miserable, he’d be looking forward to a great year.

Except Baz isn’t here.

Baz, a constant in young Simon’s life, has failed to appear for his final year at Watford, and no one knows why. It drives Simon to distraction, convinced his long time rival is plotting some evil scheme against him.

“You were the centre of my universe and everything else spun around you.”

The narrative is told from the first person perspective, often jumping from one characters point of view to the next mid scene, so that the reader can see what’s happening from differing perspectives. I’ve always enjoyed this type of writing, and had no trouble following the course of the narrative because of it, though if you aren’t accustomed to paying close attention while you’re reading I can see how this head hopping might leave you a little bewildered.

I blew through the stories 522 pages in no time, the pacing is fast and the banter quick, so quick that it left me wishing for more. More build up, more conversation, more exploration of the characters and the world they live in. But then I reminded myself that this was “fanfiction” or at least meant to be framed around the same structure. The world we’re exploring is already established, the events mentioned are supposed to be known. I never felt lost, but it made me wish for more of the past, even if the present was probably more interesting.

I really enjoyed the build up between Simon and Baz, the reason for the truce felt natural, the period of time it took for them to actually trust one another did too (they have, after all, spent seven previous years as roommates without killing one another). Baz is the emotionally complicated angst ridden love lorn teen that I always wanted out of Draco. Simon is a slightly more self aware Harry (slightly, very slightly), and their chemistry is off the charts good. Way more interesting and unpredictable then shoving the youngest child of a family friend into a relationship with the lead.

The only real problem I had was with the politics in this story; there are references made that don’t feel like complete thoughts, commentary that has no conclusion. It was conflicting agreeing with certain ideals only to have a negative light cast on those upholding them. I don’t want to give anything away, but I do wish there had been some middle ground to tread on.

I feel like I’m eating crow with how I went on about not enjoying YA lit anymore, but then this comes along and gets my attention. I wouldn’t say I was blown away by it, however I enjoyed it a great deal and will no doubt read the next two in the series.

Final Conclusion: Read it if you like Draco and Harry making out or just gay stuff in general. Read it for the snark and angst and a great scene with a dragon. Also because Baz needs recognition and love in spite of his many flaws, and I’m worried about my son. It’s a ghost story, a love story, a Chosen One story. It’s funny and fast, a little flawed, but not enough to detract from the main attraction; Simon and Baz.

“May you fight your own battles and forge your own wings.”

 

 

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