Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 6th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Buy on Amazon
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.
I really wanted to like this book. It had potential. But ultimately, it let me down. Frankly, it was a bit of a mess.
The big question everyone seems to be asking about Carry On, is whether or not you need to read Rainbow Rowell’s contemporary novel Fangirl first, since the two are somewhat linked. The clear and definite answer to this is: no. You won’t get anything more or less out of this book having read Fangirl first. HOWEVER, you do need to have read Harry Potter. People might disagree with me on this but I feel that if you haven’t read Harry Potter, this book will make no sense to you. Why? Carry On is basically bad Harry Potter fanfiction. There, I said it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against fanfiction. But this book just relied on Harry Potter nostalgia too heavily. When you have an entire book that relies on the reader knowing and loving the world and premise of another, that’s not really satisfying to me. I didn’t feel like this book could stand on its own.
See, when I first heard people talking about this book I was very intrigued. People kept saying how well Rainbow Rowell plays with common fantasy tropes, how she inverses them brilliantly. If you know my reading tastes at all, you know how excited I get when I hear about these kinds of books. Now, I do agree that Rainbow Rowell had good ideas, but the execution didn’t work for me. It was trying too hard to be different, was too satirical and, as a result, felt disjointed.
There was a certain psychological aspect to this book that had to do with said inversion of tropes and it could have been AMAZING. However, I don’t think Rainbow Rowell managed to pull it off well.
First we have Simon, who is not only totally flat and uninteresting, but also seriously annoying. After having read this book I still feel like I don’t understand him at all. He doesn’t seem to have any strong opinions on anything and never thinks things through. To be honest, I actually thought he was kind of stupid. Overall, I didn’t care about what happened to him and thus I lacked engagement in the story.
I did really like Baz’s character, he was multi-dimensional and layered and he did make me swoon a little at the beginning. I thought his inner monologues were interesting, especially his moral dilemma about vampires. However, I don’t think the author took it quite far enough. I wish she would have explored his inner psyche more, would have gone deeper into his thoughts. His character was good, but could have been better.
I also really enjoyed Penny, she was a smart, strong, independent female character, but again, she was basically Hermione. That would be fine, it’s impossible for authors to come up with totally original characters all the time, but in the magical school setting with everything else being so similar, it was just too much for me.
Then we have Agatha who is an unnecessary character if ever I saw one. She added nothing to the story and her POVs bored me to death. It felt like the only reason she was there, was because Rainbow Rowell wanted to have an original trio, just like in Harry Potter.
In the beginning, I loved the romance. New OTP, I thought. The pre-relationship angst was on point. I can’t help but love the hate-turns-to-love trope, despite how often I have seen it. But when the love interests were finally together, I lost all my feels. I couldn’t really understand why they actually liked each other, they didn’t fit and Baz’s infatuation suddenly seemed very out of the blue and meaningless. Also, for a book who’s strongest element was arguably the romance, the second half had entirely too little of it.
Plot & Pacing:
Though I had many issues with this book, the plot was definitely my biggest problem. It was an absolute mess. This book was boring. It was predictable through and through. Rainbow Rowell did try to write in some plot twists but I saw them coming from miles away. There also wasn’t any build-up of suspense; I was never scared for the characters. The novel starts off with a whole lot of info-dumping (since we start in what is supposedly the seventh book in a series) and after that the story just kind of meanders around pointlessly. The climax ended up being disappointing and there were times in the latter half where I seriously considered DNFing.
Wasn’t well-done and relied entirely on Harry Potter to carry it through. Zero originality. World-building is one of my favourite aspects in fantasy novels but I found this world to be completely uninteresting and bland. It’s fine if you want to have vampires/ghosts/dragons/pixies etc. in your book, but please make them somewhat relevant.
The magic system was kind of cool (although I’ve seen it done before), however, it wasn’t fleshed-out or thought through enough. Had the magic system been different, this book would still have been the EXACT same, which just goes to show that the author added it in more as a gimmick than an actual plot devise.
Rainbow Rowell can write, no doubt about that. Her writing is very readable and her dialogues are fun and realistic. When it comes to fantasy however, I really don’t appreciate pop culture references. I’m aware that this is a completely personal opinion and a case of “it’s me not you” but Carry On felt a little like the author was trying to squeeze a fantasy and contemporary novel into one. The result was a misshapen hybrid.
Although I can see why this book is getting so much hype, I personally cannot jump on that bandwagon. This book disappointed me despite the fact that I went into it with little expectations and I don’t recommend it.
Hi there! I'm Chantal, a 19-year-old book lover from Switzerland. Books are my primary escape from the real world and I don't know what I would do without them. When I'm not reading, I'm probably studying, dancing or listening to music. Visit me on Goodreads.
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