Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Page count: 517 pages (trade paperback)
Rating: 3/5 stars (really just 2.5, though Goodreads doesn’t have that option)
This is a spoilerfree review.
Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
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.
Having read Fangirl (which, in hindsight, was really mostly just alright), I was excited to hear about the fanfiction from it being turned into a real book. A whole story about Simon & Baz! How awesome!
I definitely looked forward to reading it. Maybe even a tad too much. Because, now that I’ve read it? It was really just alright. Nothing special, really.
First off, something good: this book is LGBT. And something bad about that: it’s blatantly biphobic. No really, the whole concept of “bisexuality” doesn’t seem to exist in this world, the word and possibility of it is never mentioned, and it bugged me a lot.
Putting that aside though, this book is essentially published Harry Potter fanfiction, though it really really wants you to know it is definitely not Harry Potter fanfiction. I was already struggling somewhat at the beginning to try and see this as a separate book, but all the blatant “this is Hogwarts except not” and “look we have our own magick system, so not Harry Potter, nope”, also bugged me. That said, it definitely gets easier to read/ignore after a while, when the story gets going a bit more.
I mean, I get it. Explaining a whole new magical world while at the same time trying to prove you’re not just, consciously or subconsciously, borrowing from one of the most influential magic world/Chosen One stories around – and only having one book to do so, while also trying to stay cute and romance-y and get your plot going, it’s hard. I can see that. It’s really hard to be original in a genre like that, and some tropes are just expected by the target audience.
But I can’t say Rowell did a super good job. It fell a bit flat. There was no real depth, I don’t feel like I really got to know the characters or their motivations or what they like/don’t like, outside of ~quirky things~ and cliches.
Like I said, it’s an alright read. It’s not super good, though I can’t say it’s super bad either. It does what it sets out to do, and as long as you don’t have super high expectations you should be alright.