Book review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Series: Simon Snow #1
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Purchased

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 starts 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.

Fangirl was my first Rainbow Rowell book. I read it, I loved it, I’ve never looked back. Since finishing it, I’ve obsessively read everything that Rowell has ever written. I’ve recommended her books to my friends, to my co-workers, to my boyfriend (but he won’t read them). I love her writing style. I love her characters. I love everything about her books. So, in short: This book is by Rainbow Rowell, so of course I loved it.

And of course this book is connected to Fangirl. In that book, Cath writes Simon Snow fanfiction. But if you haven’t read that book, don’t worry about it. Prior knowledge of Fangirl is not necessary to read, understand, or enjoy this book. They are separate worlds. They are separate entities. So let me first start by saying this: put Fangirl out of your mind. Enjoy Carry On for what it is.

This book is, by far, one of my favorites in recent memory. I read the majority in one sitting, stopping only for my weekly phone call with my mom and a quick lunch break. I’m having trouble finding words to describe it. It’s everything I’d hoped for, and maybe a little more. It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s whimsical, and it’s enthralling. It made me happy to be reading it, even when the plot got sad. I wish I could live in Simon Snow’s universe, because I could be friends with any of these characters.

Simon, the “worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.” A kid who’s jumped from foster home to foster home, who absolutely loves coming to school because it’s the one place he feels like he belongs.
Baz, maybe-probably-definitely a vampire. A kid from one of the Old Families (who used to rule the magical world). The biggest jerk with the biggest heart.
Penny, the smartest girl you’ll ever meet. Heart of gold. So clever. And she cares about Simon so much in a 100% platonic way.
Agatha, who’s actually kind of awful, but you can’t help but sympathize with her, at least a little bit. (I take it back, I couldn’t be her friend.)

And all the secondary characters, from the school staff to the family members to the villains. As you would expect from Rainbow Rowell, they’re all developed. They all have histories and motives and feelings.

As the story begins, Simon is entering his eighth (and final) year at Watford. His roommate Baz is missing, and although Baz annoys the living daylights out of him (and has actually tried to kill Simon a few times), Simon knows something must be wrong when he still hasn’t showed up several weeks into the term. He spends his days (and nights) prowling around the Watford campus, asking around about Baz, searching any and everywhere he thinks Baz could be hiding. His need to find Baz borders on obsession.

Eventually, Baz comes back, and the story kicks up a notch (or several). Simon and Baz aren’t at each other’s throats as much as they used to be. In fact, they team up (temporary truce) to achieve a mutual goal. Simon has never been able to control his magic, but amazing things happen when he works with Baz. The two of them are like a dream team. I was completely absorbed by their story.

And, oh… the romance. I wasn’t sure how Rowell was going to pull it off, but she did. She always does. It felt natural, and it wasn’t over-the-top. It was perfect. Much like this whole book.

I can see myself re-reading this one. That’s how much I loved it.

for my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #2: a romance

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