First introduced in Fangirl by Cath who wrote wildly popular fanfiction, Simon Snow–Chosen One, Magician, Orphan–is in his final year at boarding school, Watford School of Magicks, and for some reason, his roommate, nemesis, and secret vampire, Baz, did not come back for term. In addition, his relationship with Agatha, his girlfriend, is on the rocks; the Insidious Humdrum, who seems to be a clone of Simon, is still out to kill him; and his mentor, the Mage, is avoiding him. Even magic is terrible for Simon, as he cast even the most basic spells, rather instead super powerful ones that are likely to kill you as help you. Spending every moment searching the school for Baz, Simon grows more and more frustrated, or obsessed, with his absence. With Baz gone, Simon intercepts a Visiting meant for him, which may lead to Baz’s mother’s murderer. When Baz finally returns, Simon and Baz form an unlikely alliance to discover the truth about his mother, and the consequences of their relationship changes the typical Chosen One arc for the better.
Honestly, I couldn’t remember much from Fangirl about Simon & Baz, except their nontraditional romance, so I went into this without much preconceived thought except that this book is a bare bones version of Harry Potter.
Out of all Rainbow Rowell’s books, this is my least favorite, but by no means does this make it a “bad” read.
Since this was a last book in a series where the previous are nonexistent and glossed over in the text, I had a really hard time a) connecting with the characters and b) being hooked in the beginning of the story. I do think readers will have a harder time with this one simply due to those factors and not having that beginning, that growth of love and connection for Simon and his friends, excepting what we knew from Fangirl. I got into the story after about pg 50, but then right before things start picking up between Simon and Baz I began skimming. Pacing seemed very slow for parts of the novel, and yes, I was very, very tired of the “Where’s Baz” obsession. Once we gained Baz as a narrator, I loved his voice. He was fresh, fun, and a better read than a seemingly clueless and helpless Simon. The two of them together was great, but Simon on his own was borderline annoying. (This is not to say that I didn’t like them!) There were a considerable number of fantasy tropes, and while we knew there were HP tropes from Fangirl or tropes that drew off of HP’s rampant fanfiction, etc. and that attracted us to it, there was too much borrowing from HP in Carry On–this time it repelled me as a reader. There were just too many big plot devices that were transposed or adopted from HP and jarred the reader from the story.
I still love Rainbow Rowell and I love that she was trying something different in this novel, just as Fangirl was pretty unique. I think Carry On is really amazing from a literary analysis POV especially on writing, fantasy, tropes, and manipulating tropes, but I do not think it will be as successful and beloved as her other works. However, my opinion isn’t the only one as many librarians have put it in their favorite top ten for the year.
Note: Strong language, homosexuality, and violence. Older teens/new adult are more of the intended audience.