REVIEW: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Griffin

DATE PUBLISHED: October 6, 2015

OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads)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 sets 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 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



For starters, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On traces its roots from her prior novel, Fangirl. Aside from it being a fanfic written by Cath, the lead character from that story, there’s no other notable relation from the book. In other words, it’s still fairly easy to follow Carry On’s plot even without reading Fangirl.

Writing Style

I’ve been a faithful patron to practically every Rainbow Rowell book and Carry On’s not an exception.  To get through the first parts of the book was crucial. I get these episodes on her other books too so I say, be forgiving and give it a chance. Her writing style isn’t my style (no pun intended) so it was a struggle initially. But humans are experts in acclimatization so learning to adapt gradually brought it pleasing to my taste. If I’m not mistaken, this is Rainbow Rowell’s first take on a fantasy genre. Such classification of book requires vivid description of the setting and the plot as opposed to fiction and I should say she definitely nailed it here!

Theme

Rainbow Rowell introduced without pretentions the main genre of Carry On. While some books promised a downright, full-on fantasy, the naked fake truth gets revealed the moment romance steps in. With Carry On’s case, the premise transparently admitted it’s a fusion of both. The distribution of romance and fantasy is in equilibrium in such manner that there’s no overshadowing.

My initial thoughts to Carry On as a fantasy slightly leans towards disapproval. Its elements have a blatantly high resemblance to Harry Potter. It’s considerably an HP fan fiction except the names were tweaked to conceal the truth. If we’re being honest here, I didn’t bother reading this as a fanfic excerpt in Fangirl. It sort of tried hard to, if not beat, at least rival the golden standard that is Harry Potter. Because of this issue, I embraced this book quite hesitantly when it was announced these fanfic characters, Simon and Baz, will have an independent novel.

However, the status of its fantasy content had a visible progress. It wasn’t an absolute clone of J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece and the auxiliary building blocks perfed up, not just a bit, the lack of novelty. I like the idea of mages being a well of magic and it being like boiling hot tea poured to another vessel. But don’t get me started on the witless spells. For one thing, how does one conjure something up with “Have a break, Have a Kitkat”. I know they’re supposed to be funny but sorry, not my cup of tea.

Carry On totally kicked it in the romance department. Not an inch of incredulity in me with this. Rainbow Rowell’s a buff when it comes to this genre. There’s a lot of kissing and skin contacts, enough to make one’s heart skyrocketing. It didn’t occur to me that this will be a book about LGBTs (I mean, I thought Simon and Baz being a thing only happened in Cath’s fanficdom)  so the revelation came as a surprise for me. I like how it spotlighted the strains – confusions, fear of family dismissal, etc. –  gay guys weather in such a conservative setting because it translates to what happens in reality. There’s a necessity for LGBT books as this to unshell to the mass the difficulties of being in their shoes, to extricate us from the ties that bond us to our discriminating social constructs.  

Characters

Being the Chosen One in the magickal world, Simon Snow carried the weight as if every mage is his responsibility, that he had to save the day. But his efforts are not met with appreciation. Simon Snow is a mirror to a martyr who pours out his or her everything but doesn’t get enough credits, to one who shoulders all the burden and at the end of the day, still gets the blame. 

Baz, on the other hand, is the icon for self-control, a victim of an unrequited love. How does one possess so much restraint when you’re roommates with a person you have physical and emotional attachments with? And Penelope? She’s the best friend with the most blunt words. I need that in my life – someone who tongue lashes and yet you know he or she cares. What about Agatha? Her presence is… is it there? I didn’t even regard her existence and the few times she was brought to the fore, she’s being a shrew and conceited.

Character development took a glorious course on this book. The characterization was evocative as if the words were spells conjuring the fictional character into a visual hologram. There’s actually no stagnancy in most of the leads’s development and each had their own spotlights through the switching viewpoints feature of the novel.
Plot

As abovementioned, the first parts of Carry On picked up on a downtempo pace. I had to put the book down several times being entirely uninterested on Simon having a nightly search party for Baz. It wasn’t until I learned about Baz’s raw emotions that this book caught my attention purely. From there, it all proceeded on a much faster stride on my perspective.

Carry On’s plot was pursued in a manner by which a reader will lead to believe these are the bad guys when in truth, they’re victims. In other words, there were twists which were absolutely gripping. The proceedings planted a discourse in my mind as to which side to side on. I had a lot of guesses and it sort of had been a mini-thriller.

Baz and Simon’s love thing wasn’t born out of first sight. Thank heavens it wasn’t. Such stories are getting old. I like how there were bouts of awkwardness, kissing, confusion, kissing, jealousies, and much more kissing in their love relationship. One thing’s unclear for me is how Simon knew he’s for Baz. However, whether it be a surge of emotion or a secret Simon would never reveal, he should be acknowledged for stepping out of courage and turning this story into a quite vibrant one.



See you on  TWITTER @thebookgasm |  GOODREADS @ Trisha Ann

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11 comments

  1. Love this descriptive review of Carry On! I agree with you on a lot of aspects. For me, I was even considering to not finish it in the beginning. It was so slowwww, and when Baz came in I was like JFKDLA YESSS. That was when everything got rollin’, haha. As for the spells, I also see where you come from. A lot of my friends like the simplicity of it but I felt like Rowell put the more magical elements in the background in favor of the character growth happening.

    Like

    • Thanks, Aila!
      Right?? I thought it was just me who found the initial parts too dreary. I’m just glad I didn’t give up on it 😀
      I was initially shipping for Simon and Penelope bc I really thought Baz was the enemy and it was just Cath [Fangirl] who made the whole Baz-Simon thing. But until Baz’s revelation, gaaah they’re already on my growing list of OTPs!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to love it at first but I’m just so glad I exerted a little patience! The book gets a looot better as it proceeded.

      You have a point there, Astra. The spells were simple and funny though I’m a woman of complexity so I prefer J.K. Rowling’s still. Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with your point about character dynamics. The interaction between the characters is also a plus point for me. I totally enjoy Baz-Penelope interaction. They could be BFFs if they’re not mortal enemies. Hahaha.

    Regarding the similarities to HP, yeah it was so obvious at the beginning.
    At first I was like: is this a HP fanfiction?
    Then I was like: This is a good HP fanfiction.
    Baz came in and poured his heart out.
    Me: ASDJHK *reread his confession multiple times* 😍

    I think the best thing about SnowBaz is that Rowell doesn’t force Simon to immediately embrace his feelings and accept that he’s gay and in love with Baz (although he was obviously obsessed with him xD)

    Like

    • Gaaah I forgot to highlight Baz-Penelope! They are perfect allies, tbh.
      GOOD HP FANFICTION INDEED. Just imagine Harry and Draco doing it haha. I really love Rainbow Rowell’s take on this miles more than Cath’s.
      I really wasn’t expecting SnowBaz to be the actual thing! I’m glad I didn’t read reviews about this right away. The surprise factor totally hit me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, totally! I sort of regret being too eager reading interviews and reviews before diving in. It would have affected me more if I didn’t know what to expect. They are still SO cute though.
        (I think Rainbow Rowell once admitted that she wrote a Harry/Draco fanfic so… xD)

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