All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Carry On By Rainbow Rowell

on October 28, 2015

Carry OnCarry On
Rainbow Rowell
Pan Macmillan AUS
2015, 517p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {courtesy of the publisher/}

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.

If you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl then you might remember that main character Cath was writing fan fiction whilst awaiting the final novel in a fantasy series that she and her sister had been reading since they were children. Although I’ve never read Harry Potter, the series of novels Cath had been reading seemed quite similar but Cath and many others in the fandom were rather devoted to a romance between the series’ protagonist Simon Snow and his sort of nemesis/the antagonist, Simon’s room mate Baz. There are some lengthy scenes in Fangirl, from Cath’s fanfiction work which enabled readers to piece together a lot of the Simon and Baz story and it seems those characters stayed in Rainbow Rowell’s mind because in her latest novel, Carry On, we get the final chapter of the Simon and Baz story.

I have to admit, I did have a few reservations about this one. When I heard that Rowell was writing it, I figured that it was a bit too meta – a book based on the fan fiction series of another series loosely based on a set of books within another book by the author. But when it turned up I figured hey it’s Rainbow Rowell and I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve read from her before (with the exception of Landline, which really was a disappointment to me). So I gave it a go and in some ways, I was pleasantly surprised. I found Simon an engaging voice, his clumsiness and mistakes and awkwardness were real and he was sort of the least likely hero – like an average person who happened to randomly have magical ability.

However, because this is supposed to be an established world, it did take me a little bit to figure out what was going on and where Simon was going and what was happening and why were things trying to kill him. It’s been a couple of years since I read Fangirl and I probably should’ve skimmed it to refamiliarise myself with the Simon and Baz story, which was really only a bit-part to Cath’s journey. There’s some referencing to past moments and events in the first 100 pages, things that we are supposed to already know so you kind of have to muddle your way through a bit of that. Because of that, Carry On is a pretty long novel – over 500p. Also Baz is missing for the first 170+ pages or so of this book and I’m not entirely convinced that really worked. Simon comes off as almost unhinged in parts of those 170+ pages obsessing over where Baz is and basically devoting every waking thought to him but there’s a distinct lack of understanding about why he is so obsessed with Baz. Baz (when he appears) at least knows why he’s obsessed with Simon and making his life a misery and wallowing in it. But Simon is utterly oblivious, right up until the moment which was a bit weird.

I really enjoyed the chapters from Baz’s point of view – in fact they were by far my favourite parts of the whole book. I love that Rowell gave us such a glimpse into his character and his feelings, because for the first 170p while he’s not around, you only have Simon’s deep-seated obsession to go on and the fact that Baz has tried to kill him a few times in the past. Then he arrives and you get to be in his head and he’s really interesting. I actually wish his thoughts made up more of the story. I liked Simon as well, but I found Baz a more complex character, a little bit ‘meatier’ and more enjoyable to analyse. Simon was so straight forward, like here I am, I’m a bit of a mess! but Baz had lots of layers to him. I didn’t expect to like him all that much, but I ended up loving him.

I enjoyed the story, despite feeling as though I was missing part of it at times. I just feel that there was some wasted opportunity with this book. If Rowell was going to give a Simon/Baz story, there could’ve been more. More scenes from the beginning, more of their antagonistic battles, more of Baz and his struggle. It felt like a lot of things were merely glossed over when there was opportunity to dive in and really explore. This book is so long but really, there are huge patches where nothing really happens – like the first 170 pages where Simon basically spends 6wks wondering where Baz is and why he hasn’t returned to school. I didn’t feel like we were given enough a lot of the time and that the reader was just kinda supposed to fill in the blanks. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, I think it was a solid read and I enjoyed it whilst reading but since I finished I’ve been reflecting on it a lot while I was thinking of what I was going to write in my review and I’m seeing more and more where the author could’ve built the world in more detail and fleshed out the characters and the conflicts a little more. Simon’s girlfriend felt like literally a waste of space and there were various others that were little more than cardboard cutouts.


Book #157 of 2015

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