Friday, 16 October 2015

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Publication Date: October 8th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Length: 522 pages

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.

I’m still catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to Rainbow Rowell’s books, so when I started reading ‘Carry On’ I had no idea until a friend told me when I was a third of the way through that it was in fact a book that had been a fictional book in one of Rainbow Rowell’s other books ‘Fangirl’ where the main character wrote fanfiction about the character’s in ‘Carry On’. Confused yet? I was, but I was also highly entertained at how meta Rainbow was deciding to go with her latest novel.

Considering ‘Fangirl’ takes a fictional look at the real life Harry Potter fan-fic extravaganza, it is no surprise that the easiest way to sum up this book is to say that it’s like Harry Potter on crack.
It’s bizarre, completely insane, brilliant and more than a little crazy, and on the whole I loved it.

Rainbow dumps you into Simon and Baz’s final year at Watford and it feels like there should have been seven books leading up to this where we see all the crazy stuff they got up to and watch the rivalries and relationships develop. Instead we’re given this as a standalone and get constant references back to the various things that have happened in the past seven years. Sometimes that works brilliantly when they’re just casually dropped in and you have a moment of ‘wait, WHAT!?’ but other times I was just left feeling frustrated because I had missed all of this other stuff being referenced. It ends up being a bit of a mixed bag where some of it works and some of it doesn’t and I was left see sawing back and forth between loving it and being frustrated.

The magic is crazy. I adored so much of the insanity and frequently found myself laughing out loud – particularly at the phrases for spells that they use. It was all just so utterly bizarre. I also really loved the relationship between Simon and Baz, that was probably the best part of the entire novel for me. Scrap that, Baz was the best part of the novel for me. He’s snarky and aloof and the banter alone was fabulous. Rainbow plays on so many clich├ęs and turns it into something other, something that you never expect.

However I did have a couple of problems with it, mostly due to the complete lack of surprise at the twists and reveals. I could see them coming right from the start so instead of it eliciting gasps and excitement from me, I was left waiting for the characters to catch on. I also struggled with Simon’s persistent one track mindedness about Baz in the first section of the novel. Once Baz makes an appearance and we start getting his point of view, it wasn’t nearly so frustrating and it didn’t bother me in the same way. However to start with Simon sounds like a broken record and the lack of anything else really driving the plot forward makes it drag a little until Baz shows up.

All in all this was a good book, a quick and enjoyable read, and one that has made me even more eager to go and read ‘Fangirl’. I’m proof that you don’t have to have read ‘Fangirl’ first to enjoy and understand ‘Carry On’, although we’ll see how my opinion of this book changes after reading the former. It’s not without its problems, but it’s funny and unique and if you’re a fan of Harry Potter is definitely one to pick up.


  1. Ahhh, I SO want to read this. AND AT THE SAME TIME I'M WORRIED. I loved Fangirl an astronomical amount but. It's full of snippets of Carry On and...I skipped them all?! I don't know! I just wanted to rad a contemporary and the Harry Potter-esque snippets didn't interest me. but I feel like if it was it's OWN book then I would be totally okay with it. Although...I mean...if It's too much like HP I might have problems. BUT WITTY BANTER. omg, you see how torn I am here!?!?

    1. It is definitely its own book, despite the HP comparisons. Whilst I was reading it, whenever Baz was around I kept thinking GAH I WANT TO KNOW WHAT CAIT MAKES OF THIS, because he is basically snark, joyous snark and I think you would LOVE HIM. But I completely understand the dilemma. I have yet to read Fangirl, but I think if I was approaching it the other way around I would be a monstrous flaily potato because the fear of one book ruining the other is TOO GREAT.