“Safety, stability – it’s an illusion. It’s a false god, Simon. It’s like clinging to a sinking raft, instead of learning to swim.”
Carry On is Rainbow Rowell’s perspective on the “Chosen One” story that is so often seen in popular fantasy novels. It follows Simon Snow, a fictional character introduced in her other novel, Fangirl. In the Fangirl universe, the Simon Snow series mirrors the Harry Potter books of our own universe. And so, Carry On takes us on an adventure similar to that of Harry Potter – but of course, with the addition Rainbow Rowell’s magic touch.
For some reason, I wasn’t expecting to adore this novel as much as I did. It was quirky, entertaining, and adorable as hell. Rainbow Rowell does a fantastic job at making this story accessible to people who haven’t picked up Fangirl, and she handles the exposition in a way that allows us to jump right into Simon’s final year at magic school and his final showdown with the Insidious Humdrum. (I bet Voldemort wishes he had such a ridiculous title).
The story is told from multiple perspectives, and I was so impressed at how each character’s voice felt fresh and distinct compared to the others’. Often in multi-perspective stories, the chapters hardly sound different from one another (and only through context clues and names on top do we determine whose turn it is to tell the story). In Rowell’s universe, it was easy to distinguish who was in charge of each chapter. The only time I found myself complaining was when Agatha was up to bat, and that’s mostly because of how annoying she was.
On top of having clear voices, the characters themselves were so charming and relatable. There were no clear-cut good guys or bad guys, and I was constantly flip flopping on whose politics I agreed with. There were times I genuinely wasn’t sure who I was rooting for – Simon and the mage? Baz and the old families? (Okay, let’s just be honest and say that I spent the entire book rooting for Simon and Baz to get married and call it a day.)
The relationships between characters felt so heartwarming and natural. Simon’s friendship with Penny is one of my favorite YA friendships to date. There’s also a fantastic LGBT romance, and I’m just warning you: you might drop dead from how freaking perfect it is. The romance does override the plot for a bit, and normally I’d complain, but I didn’t even mind it. It was so adorable, I could have read those chapters all day.
My only complaint about Carry On is in regards to the ending of the book. I enjoyed how everything was tied together, at least as far as the plot goes. All of my questions were sufficiently answered. But after the entire book had such an upbeat tone, I wasn’t expecting the ending to hold as much sadness as it did. Maybe I’m just being salty, but it didn’t sit right with me.
Saltiness aside, I gave Carry On a 4 star rating on Goodreads (and it’s really more of a 4.5). I devoured the crap out of this, loved every minute of it, and I really don’t want to return it to the library. I’d better buy myself a copy because I’ll definitely be re-reading this in the near future.