Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
Release date: October 6, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rainbow Rowell continues to break boundaries with Carry On, an epic fantasy following the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from her beloved bestseller Fangirl.
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.
Like most people who read Fangirl, one of my favorite things about the book were the glimpses into the fanfic that Cather was writing based on the fictional (Harry Potter-like) Simon Snow series entitled Carry On. So when I heard that Carry On was being published on its own merits, I was excited...albeit a bit skeptical. It was the skepticism that kept me from buying this book, even when the hardback went on super pre-order sale. Luckily, I requested this the minute it popped up in the library catalogue, so I got it through the library, like, 2 days after its release. I read it a little last week (I don't get a whole lot of reading done during the week), but plowed through the final 400+ pages today (completely ignoring the many, many essays I have to grade...and continue to ignore in order to write this post...). To be honest, this isn't a decision I regret. Because as downright entertaining as this book is--and it is very, very entertaining--it does still read like a Harry Potter rip-off. Thankfully for me, I love Harry Potter.
In Carry On, you do not see any rehashing of scenes that existed in Fangirl. Instead, the story jumps right into what is the fan-fiction of the 8th book of the series. Simon is returning to the Watford School of Magic for his final year of school where he shares a room with his sworn enemy, the vampire Basilton (Baz). He gets to school before his roommate, and waits for him to show up. And waits. And waits. Weeks goes by without Baz, and Simon is wondering if he has left school for good. Is he up to his old scheming ways? His best friend, Penelope, wants him to just stop obsessing. There are other things to worry about besides his stupid roommate. Like the Insidious Humdrum who is still sucking magic out of the world. Simon's girlfriend, Agatha, however, is also waiting for Baz to show up because she may be in love with him, even though she knows that it would break Simon's heart to lose her to his nemesis. Simon resigns himself to the idea that he may never see Baz when Baz shows up (of course he does), setting the story into action.
I very rarely (lately) read books as obsessively as I read this one. I tend to read several at a time without finishing any of them. Since starting teaching, and maybe even since I went back to school, a story has to really be holding my interest to stop me from picking something else up halfway through. It's unfortunate, but true. Part of it boils down to just being insanely busy (see 70+ essays I should be grading right now), and some it has to do with the sheer number of books I have available to me at any given time what with my book buying habits, my extreme library habits, and the new ARCs I get weekly. It's like Aziz Ansari talking about the many options given to singles because of online dating. How do you just pick, and stick, with one?! (So thankful I found my love before online dating was really a thing.) ANYHOO...So I have to give major props to this tome for holding my attention to the point that I couldn't put it down for an entire day. That said, this for real reads like a HP rip-off. There are differences in the story, of course, but I'm guessing that this story wasn't ever going to be real book on its own when the author first wrote Fangirl, and the Simon Snow series in Fangirl was most likely very much meant to read Harry Potter-y.
Penelope is Hermione and Ron combined. She's dead smart, but from a large, "pure" wizarding family. Baz is Draco Malfoy if he was a vampire, complete with the snobby family that wants more power. The Mage is Dumbledore, albeit not nearly as lovable, and definitely more absent. The Humdrum is Voldemort, even though he is not nearly as scary. And Simon is Harry--the bumbling chosen one, and an orphan to boot, who often gets by through luck and friendships.
THAT SAID, this was still SO much fun to read. There are enough differences between Carry On and HP (with our main character enmeshed in a will-they-or-won't-they gay love story not-withstanding) that make this incredibly fun. It's interesting how many modern things these magicians use, like laptops and cell phones, with the mentions of things like Downton Abbey (and the cursing that remind you this is imaginary fanfic--I doubt the "actual" Simon Snow series throws fuck around nearly as much--or at all). I LOVED how the story is told through multiple characters first-person POVs. I love seeing a story through several characters eyes. And Rainbow Rowell can write. Despite not being able to get through Eleanor and Park, I really liked Attachments, and adored Fangirl. The woman has undeniable talent, and I can't wait to read whatever she puts out next.
Above all else, Simon and Baz are just lovely. And hot. Once the story really picked up, they had me swooning all over the place. Love. Love. LOVE.
Now what I really, really want is the "actual" last book in the Simon Snow series. We know from Fangirl that Cather was trying to finish Carry On to wrap up her version before the final Simon Snow book was released. Seriously, how meta would that be? C'mon, Rainbow Rowell, let's make that happen...
Definitely, happily recommend.