Rainbow Rowell books make you want to curl up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in your favorite sweater.
They never fail to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside, with a hint of nostalgia as well. Fangirl is still probably my favorite YA Contemporary Romance, and even in the top 5 of Grace’s-All-Time-Favorite books. Carry On has now joined the ranks, and is definitely one of the best YA books I have read, and second only to the Harry Potter series when it comes to YA fantasy books.
I’ve seen a lot of people question whether or not this was a Harry Potter fan fiction attempt by Rainbow Rowell. I don’t blame them, since that seems to be a growing trend (*cough* thanks a lot E.L. James), and there are quite a few parallels to Harry Potter in Carry On. Simon is the “Chosen One”, there are two boys and a girl, they go to a school for witchcraft and wizardry, located in bumblefuck nowhere, and there’s a very, very bad guy that has a personal agenda against Simon (he’s pretty hell-bent on killing poor Simon). However, there are so many things that make this book unique, and it’s own adorable story, that I honestly feel it would be extremely unfair to label Carry On as simply “Harry Potter fan fiction”. It’s so much more than that.
The biggest, and most glaring difference, is that Simon is gay. Well, he doesn’t know this at first. However, this is a story of discovery, among other things, and Simon discovers that while he did love his ex-girlfriend, his feelings for a boy very close to him can’t be ignored. Now, I don’t normally read LGBTQ fiction, not because I’m homophobic, but simply because I can’t relate to it. Most YA LGBTQ fiction is about coming out, or letting yourself embrace who you love, and I don’t feel as much of an emotional pull in these stories, because it’s just not something I’ve ever experienced. However, when Rainbow Rowell announced that SImon Snow would get his very own full-length novel, I couldn’t resist the allure of getting to know Simon, Baz, and Agatha more, regardless of the sexuality of the main character. I absolutely fell in love with the story, despite the sexuality of the main character, for several reasons. Mostly, the whole story doesn’t focus on the relationship Simon is in. Instead, there’s a whole slew of hilarious, slightly harrowing escapades Simon and his friends get mixed up in. There’s an entire world of fantasy that Rowell created, and did a brilliant job if I do say so myself. So, instead of struggling to identify with the main character, I found myself swept up in the many adventures of Simon Snow and his comrades (I’m extremely disappointed that we don’t get six more books).
If you’ve read Fangirl (and if you haven’t, get on that right now), then you know that Rowell included fanfiction snippets that Cath (the main character of Fangirl) wrote about a magical boy named Simon Snow, and a vampire named Baz. In Cath’s world, Simon Snow is the Harry Potter of the fiction world (hence the Harry Potter fan fiction assumptions), which means there’s oodles of fan fiction floating around on the internet; Cath just so happens to be the author of the most popular fan fiction story out there, in which she puts a LGBTQ twist on the Simon Snow series (he’s straight in the Fangirl world). As a result, readers of Fangirl get snippets of Cath’s writings (which is awesome because you essentially get two stories in one). Apparently I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with Simon, Baz, and Agatha while reading Fangirl, because Rowell decided to give us a whole book about Simon (yay!)
I absolutely loved the characters in this book. You get multiple POVs throughout multiple chapters, and each one is just as enjoyable as the next. Simon gets the bulk of them, since he is after all the main character. Baz also gets a huge chunk, in which we’re treated to his snarky (but lovable) attitude; Agatha often seems exasperated with Simon (as one often is with an ex); Penny seems, for lack of a better comparison, like a much more frazzled version of Hermoine, which is just as hilarious and endearing as it sounds. My favorite part was the rivalry between Baz and Simon; roommates that get on your very last nerve are all too common, and Rowell added a dose of humour to the situation. I can’t blame Simon though–it probably isn’t very easy to room with a vampire (they’re rather unpredictable).
The writing was quirky (in typical Rowell fashion), the characters were quirky and lovable (and completely unforgettable), and the shenanigans they got up to were rip-roaring hilarious, and I found myself in tears multiple times). I promise you, even if Carry On doesn’t sound like the kind of YA book you typically read, give it a chance anyway. I promise you won’t be disappointed. While you’re at it, check out Rainbow Rowell’s other books as well (she never disappoints).
Quirky Stars: 5/5
Author: Rainbow Rowell