Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 6, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one that ever was. He doesn't do magic, he explodes, and he hasn't been able to figure out why during entire time at Watford School of Magic. He's still just as clueless to it now in his final year, his vampire roommate who wants him dead is mysteriously absent and probably plotting his next move, and he's found out that his nemesis is wearing his face. Case-in-point, worst chosen one ever.
So Judging You
All Of My Thoughts
WARNING: This review is going to be very fangirl-y :) and probably very not cohesive. As always if you just want a quick review, check out the notecard at the end of this post.
Let's just get the one and only negative out of the way. The beginning dragged a bit. It did. I mean, not really for me. Because I pick up pretty much every damn thing Rainbow Rowell puts down, but there is a clear moment where I was reading along and literally burrowed down deeper into the covers and went "ahh, here we go." The first 100 pages or so aren't boring at all, in fact, it's kind of like a build up which makes the "ahh" moment 50 gagillion times better. Yet still, there's a lot of information and inner dialogue and the anti-hero hasn't shown his face yet.
And what a beautiful face it is! I mean of course I'm assuming here. He's a fictional character. But in my head, Baz Pitch is drop dead gorgeous (pun may or may not be intended). I can't help but cast Ezra Miller and Logan Lehrman in the roles of Baz and Simon in my head. They were perfection. Simon Snow is achingly sweet and kind of guillible. Baz is all snark, a boy encased in steel with a breakable heart. Endgame or not, canon or not, I ship them to infinity and beyond. Their angsty scenes were intense and frequently hilarious and their moments - well, Rainbow can do a tender moment like no other. And surprisingly, although I'm a totally the Captain of the Simon-and-Baz-sitting-in-a-tree Ship,
the ultimate standout for me was Penelope Bunce. All hail, Penny Bunce, goddess of my world. I think of our Penny and I'm giddy with glee. Giddy, I tell you. She's sassy, witty, hilarious, blunt, and right like 99.9% of the time. Half of my favorite quotes from the book were either said or thought by her in her point-of-view (the other half being from Baz <333). Like this gem:
"There are only so many hours in a day, Simon. Two, three people -- that's all any of us have time for."
"There are more people than that in your immediate family, Penny."
"I know. It's a struggle."
It's not just Rainbow's main characters. Her secondary characters are robust, complete characters with story arcs of their own (my favorite of which is Natasha Grim, Baz's aunt, for great one liners like "the front seat is for people who haven't been kidnapped by fucking numpties"). There's a saying that "no one sees themselves as a side character" and this is evident in Rainbow's treatment of her other characters. One of them hates the magic world despite being a major player in it, another wants ultimate inclusion in the magical world, there's one trying to hide their immense power and others who are after as much power as they can get. I'm being very vague to avoid spoilers but the point is each of them has their own agenda and it's interesting to see how their actions in their own self interest affects the plot. None of this is surprising in the slightest. As with all of Rainbow's novels, her characters are top fucking notch. I love them all, even those that I don't particularly like all that much.
The story might bare some similarities to Harry Potter, but it completely stands on it's own as well. There are Potter-esque elements there, yes. There's the chosen one trope, the fellow wizards who hates him, and the not-so-vaguely familiar all-knowing headmaster. But although Carry On starts out on these familiar notes, it quickly morphs into something of it's own. It's fun, and well-paced, and totally gush worthy. Her world of magic is so well done I find myself thinking about it even now months after reading it (I read in first in December 2015 and then dove right back in January 2016). Yes, there are wands and spoken spells like many fantasies before it, but Rainbow has found an interesting fold to her magic system, one that ties the magic and non-magic world together in a really interesting way. Her spells are popular, relevant mundane saying like "Some Like It Hot!" or "Stay Cool!" or "There's nothing to see here!" It really drives home the power of words. I can't tell you how much time I spent trying to guess what a certain turn of phrase would result in. Even now, I'll say a phrase and wonder "what would this do in the Simon Snow world?" Another interesting fold to her story is the roommate choosing ceremony, where instead of sorting first years into houses a la Harry Potter, a cauldron presents students with their roommates pairing them up according to unforseen needs and attributes.
The writing as always is phenomenal. (Really, I sound like a broken record at this point.) Things in particular that I loved about the writing: (1) switching points of view, (2) simplicity. I totally just realized that these two points seem to contradict but this is Rainbow and she's queen and she makes complicated look easy. It felt like a fantasy written by a contemporary writer, but not in a bad way. Rainbow cuts through the world building quickly on a need to know basis while dwelling on the friendships and relationships. And with characters like hers, that's the best part. All of these factors in combination make for a compelling story, chocked full of heart-warming, butterfly moments amidst an interesting and easy-to-follow world.
Getting To The Point