Carry On is the story of Simon Snow, the chosen one. He’s the Mage’s heir, born to save the wizarding world from destruction by the Insidious Humdrum, a creature that steals magic. He also has to deal with his evil probable-vampire roommate, Baz, who is always working on some scheme that may-or-may-not result in Simon’s death. So far in their final year at the Watford School of Magicks, Baz hasn’t shown up at all, and it’s driving Simon crazy. Add to that the fact that his girlfriend, Agatha just broke up with him for the aforementioned vampire roommate and you’ve got a pretty distraught Simon Snow. He doesn’t feel like the chosen one at all…
Carry on, by Rainbow Rowell is a sort of companion novel to Fangirl. Fangirl is about a girl called Cather who writes fanfiction about the Simon Snow book series written by the (also fictional) Gemma T. Leslie. Throughout Fangirl, Cather was working on her greatest piece of fanfiction yet. Carry On is that fanfiction.
Do you need to have read Fangirl to read Carry On?
But, we spend a lot of time with Simon and Baz during Fangirl. We get a lot of background about their characters and a sense of their relationship – or perhaps I should say their relationship as Cath perceives it. Wading into Carry On without that grounding could make it difficult to connect, I think. Carry On is, after all the finale to a story we haven’t experienced. There are ways in which it is incomplete a reader could find alienating not coming at it with their Fangirl eyes.
I really liked Carry On. I loved Baz coming out of Fangirl, and he was absolutely the most compelling character in the book. I wasn’t aware that so much of it would be from his perspective, which was a pleasant surprise. He’s a funny and cynical narrator. If the book had come entirely from Simon’s point of view, Baz would have been the typical brooding boyfriend (read: boring), but hearing his brutally honest internal monologue made him a much more complex and interesting guy (read: I’m in love). Obviously I enjoyed the romance, but I would have liked more from Simon about his developing feelings. Considering that much of the book was from his perspective, some of his actions toward Baz felt a bit abrupt. That said, I appreciate that he had a lot else going on. When you have the entire world of the mages to save, I can see how you wouldn’t have time to sit around and dissect your feelings for your hot roommate.
(I’m lying. I think I could do both).
Despite being over 500 pages long, this is actually a pretty quick read. The plot is fast paced! It’s was one of those where I was creating imaginary scenarios about what could possibly happen next while attempting to go about my day. My main criticism was that certain aspects of it where somewhat underdeveloped. The Mage, for example, is the head teacher of Watford and the boss of all magicians and the closest thing Simon has to family, but he’s not a likeable or interesting person. I probably wouldn’t have cried when Snape murdered him, is what I’m saying. A lot of the other mages don’t like him as a leader and I totally understood why. Nobody knew where the guy even was for most of the book. It was disappointing, because we were told that Simon’s relationship with him was important, but we never really got to see that.
My other problem – and one I tried hard to talk myself out of – is that a lot of major events in this book happen out of nowhere. Certain realisations (and make outs) happen too easily, and major plot points are resolved in a way that didn’t really take 500 pages (or 7 completely fictitious previous books).
That all said, Rowell’s characterisation is strong as ever, and the novel is packed with people you can’t help but react to. Penelope, Simon’s best friend, is so wonderful I kind of resented Simon for turning her into a sidekick. Agatha, Simon’s soon-to-be-ex girlfriend is so annoying I wish she didn’t exist, and Baz’s Aunt Fiona is the type you just know will be rebelling way after the cause is well and truly over.
It’s a fun read with a hot romance. What more could a person need on a wintery evening?
(More money for heating. I know. I feel your pain).
Also: Rainbow Rowell loves a man with a receding hairline. It’s not a judgement, just an observation.