Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
“I walk the Wood, I walk the fields. I cover the school grounds between classes, poking through empty buildings, opening long-closed doors. Sometimes Watford seems as big on the inside as the walled grounds and outlands combined.”
Carry On is one of the most relatable teenage/young adult novels that I have ever read.
First published in 2015, it’s the third young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell, her fifth novel overall. It received just as much literary acclaim as her first two Y.A. books; Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Although a stand-alone story, it’s a spin-off from Fangirl, in which the cast of Carry On are fictional characters within the novel.
One of the leading LGBT+ novels for teenagers and young adults, it’s the best representation I have seen yet. Carry On deals with many other important topics such as class differences and morality.
It follows Simon Snow, “the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen”, as he struggles to survive his final year of Watford School of Magicks. He’s prophesied to defeat the darkest creature of the century, the Insidious Humdrum. Unfortunately, however, Simon Snow is one of the worst magicians in his year. He can’t make his wand work, his girlfriend broke up with him, and his roommate Baz is definitely trying to kill him. And is a vampire. He thinks. There’s also a monster on the loose that’s wearing Simon’s face, his mentor and Headmaster of Watford is avoiding him, and on top of all that, the magical community is falling apart under the strain of fear. What’s an infamous orphaned 18-year-old terrible magician to do?
Carry On is one of my favourite books for its easy-going dialogue, accurate representation, and heartwarming characters.
- The magical world created by Rowell is original and entertaining. Instead of using ‘traditional’ magic, i.e. Latin-based words, magic is spoken by using common phrases. This ranges from old fashioned idioms to the lyrics from Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody. It’s new, it’s fresh, and most importantly, it’s fun.
- Simon and Baz are #relationshipgoals. As usual with enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, their relationship is complex. Although Baz is head over heels for Simon, the younger mage always considered himself straight until now. It’s one of the very few LGBT+ novels that can claim it’s an accurate representation of not-straight teenagers everywhere.
- The characters are flawless. And by that, I mean that they have loads of bad qualities; but it’s this fact that makes them flawless. Simon Snow is clumsy and terrible at magic, Baz is arrogant and rude, and Penelope has a stubborn, pushy side too. Even better, not a single stereotypical Y.A. character makes an appearance.
- One of the most common debates in the Simon Snow universe is whether or not Carry On is a knock-off Harry Potter. You’ve got the fancy school of wizardry, the mysterious mentor-slash-headmaster-slash-father-figure, as well as the usual rivalry between new and old magical families. Even Simon and Baz’s relationship is a lot like Harry and Draco. If, you know, Drarry ever became canon.
- The first part of the novel is quite slow-moving and this may turn some readers away. Until Baz joins the story in his usual dramatic and explosive way, not a whole lot happens. The reader is introduced to the world of Watford and Simon Snow, but that’s about it. So, if you’re sitting there wondering when the pace in this book will increase, stick with it because it does!
- While some parts of the ending are a surprise, a lot of it is predictable. Although the main plot is interesting and has a shocking twist towards the end, the subplots that tie into it can be seen a mile away.
Overall, I’d give Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On five out of five. It’s witty, it’s enjoyable, and it’s the much-needed representation that teenagers and young adults everywhere need to see.
I’d recommend this novel to everyone, but especially to teenagers and young adults. It’s light-hearted and easy-going, and despite being 400+ pages, it’s surprisingly quick to read.
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