Rating: 3 stars
Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.
After reading Fangirl, I knew I needed to read this book to see if I’d enjoy it just as much. And I did, maybe even more so for several reasons. But I found I couldn’t give it a higher rating than Fangirl because I found a lot more things wrong with it that I’ll discuss shortly.
Carry On is about the universe Cath fantasizes about in Fangirl. It’s about the world of Watford, a school for those with magic. It centers on Simon Snow, a boy who’s supposed to be the greatest mage the World of Mages has ever seen. In this book, he returns to school for his last year at Watford and his biggest nemesis/roommate Baz doesn’t return until several weeks later. It centers around the death of Baz’s mom along with Simon stopping the evil Humdrum who’s face is very similar to his.
What I enjoyed so much when reading this book is that it’s unique. While the storyline, characters and everything else in it are supposed to be a play off of Harry Potter, you can tell when reading it that it’s a completely different universe. I like that this story is very similar to the world I already love because it made it that much easier for me to understand everything that happened. The universe was very similar to Harry Potter, but in a humorous way that I appreciated. It was like Rainbow Rowell was writing a one novel parody of the Harry Potter series, but twisting it into something else that is just as enjoyable.
I enjoyed reading Carry On so much that when I was finished, I was sad to see the story end. It felt like a piece of me had gone and went into Simon Snow’s world. And I know why I felt that way. This book has all of the elements I like in a story. It’s fantasy with a mixture of mystery, comedy, and its young adult literature that features LGBTQ characters. I like that the world Rowell portrays has magic in it, yet also has some real world elements mixed in that allow you as the reader to see magic alongside normal reality.
But most of all, one of my favorite features in this book is the relationship between Simon and Baz. Both characters are confused about their own identity, yet end up finding each other and connecting in a way you as the reader don’t expect: through the loss of a parent, aka, Baz’s mom who died many years ago at the hands of vampires. Simon could relate to what Baz was going through because of his own loss of not growing up with parents. So Simon did what he thought was right: to help Baz find out who really orchestrated the attack on the nursery that resulted in her death. This connection resulted in showing us their relationship continue to grow, from being roommates who hated each other to lovers. I loved seeing it come together because it was fun to watch the commentary between both of them as they uncovered the truth. It was entertaining, a breath of fresh air that I didn’t realize I needed. And it made moments in the story when things were turning weird more enjoyable for me. I could see the love for each other with each page I read and just couldn’t wait to watch their relationship continue to grow.
What also made Carry On an enjoyable read for me was the different points of view. I enjoyed reading this story from all of the character’s perspectives. It allowed me a better understanding of what was going on, gave me a clue about things I didn’t know before. It also made this book even more interesting because we were given access to these character’s thoughts and feelings, given an understanding as to what they were doing and why. I liked having access to all of the characters in this way because it allowed me to immerse myself even further into the story. It’s also different from any other fantasy novel I’ve read because there’s usually only one perspective that you have access to.
While Carry On is definitely a page turner, there were some elements when it came to the story that I disliked. For one, I thought the names of the spells in this world was ridiculous. I don’t know what Rowell was thinking when she came up with that idea, but it didn’t make sense to me. Especially because it wasn’t at all realistic to what magic is normally like in books. While this allows her world to be uniquely different, I don’t see how these different incantations would even be justified for someone with magic to say. I don’t know if she thought of this as a way to make fun of magic or something, but I just don’t see why magic wielders would have incantations that are nursery rhymes or common sayings that someone normal could say. That sounds like it could potentially lead to an accident, an incident that very easily could’ve been prevented.
I also wasn’t particularly fond of Agatha’s character. I felt like she acted throughout the story like she was above everyone else and just didn’t seem to care about the people she had called friends for the past seven years. Throughout Carry On, she was completely selfish, focusing only on the things that affected her life. She didn’t seem at all remotely interested in keeping up a friendship with Simon and Penelope, yet felt like she could criticize both of them for working with Baz to uncover the truth about his mother’s death. I felt like her character just existed in the story, but didn’t really belong. She was just in the story, wasting space that could’ve been better spent on other characters that played a crucial role in the overall plot. I just didn’t like Agatha and wish she wasn’t a part of the story at all.
While this book was definitely a page turner for me, another criticism I have is that the overall plot was okay. It definitely had quite a chunk of holes in it that made it difficult to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked. I think part of the problem for me is that Simon Snow’s story is rushed. The whole plot structure in this story runs a little too fast, leaving very little room for making sure nothings being left out. I think part of the reason this is even a problem is because I feel like this story should’ve been spread out into multiple books. That would’ve given Rowell the chance to get the structure and story together and figure out how to end it. Instead, this story is at the final chapter of Simon Snow’s whole story. You learn most of what Carry On is about if you’ve read Fangirl, but I don’t think it’s enough because we miss out on all of the other years Simon Snow is at Watford. You get bits and pieces of some of the important details, but it’s not enough for us to just jump to the finale and see how everything will end for Simon Snow, which by the way is actually pretty disappointing too. With the plot, it feels like you’re missing something, yet not missing anything at all. It would for me be like only reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the Harry Potter series and expecting to know every detail of the whole series without reading any of the other books. I feel like we miss too much and that the details we are given aren’t enough and have holes in them that don’t really connect the story.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Carry On much more than Fangirl. But because of the amount of criticisms I found myself having about it, it would’ve been unfair to give it a higher rating. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good read for those who want to be taken away to a magical world or for people who want to read about two boys falling in love.