Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The fact that this book exists is already a pretty spectacular achievement. They could literally teach an entire college literature course solely on this book, the way it intersects so many varying branches. Wrap your head around this shit: In Fangirl, the lead character writes fan-fiction based on a series of novels that are sort of an amalgam of Harry Potter and a proper version of Twilight. So, Rowell decides to write an entire novel that involving the fan-fic characters. Only, it’s NOT the original Simon Snow novels as written by their author in Fangirl. And it’s NOT the fan-fic version written by Cath. It’s somewhere in the middle. And it’s all fictional. And it all takes place in this world that’s more like The Magicians — Harry Potter with the kids who swear like all those British sitcoms you love watching. And ALL OF THIS IS FICTION. Rowell fan-fics her own fan-fic in her OWN NOVEL. I’d make an Inception BRRRAAAAHHHHMMMM but my brain hurts.
Now, I didn’t care much for Fangirl. I had my reasons. I much preferred Carry On. It’s hard to levy proper complaints against what this was. Because part of it is just a pseudo Harry Potter slash-fic repurposed. Which is SUPER fucking hilarious when you weigh that against Cassandra Clare and EL James, two fan-fic authors who repurposed their Harry Potter slash-fic, changed the names, and became fucking millionaires with their oh crap, oh crap, oh crappy styles. Rowell is ONE MILLION times the writers they are, and yet, she’s done it so much more deftly and yet doesn’t have the filthy lucre those bitches have netted.
My issue was that the actual quest portion of the story was less satisfying. The Voldemort story as it were. I think Rowell kind of shunts it aside to make it about Simon and Baz as love-haters. Which may very well have been the point or the intent. And it’s fine. It kind of fucked things up for me. You have to step back so many times to appreciate the full scope of the story. It’s kind of beautiful how she takes a thoughtful whack at the love triangle of Harry Potter without thumbing her nose at Rowling. Simon, the chosen one, has been seeing Agatha for all their years and adventures at their private magic academy. Penny is his loyal companion, who has her own love interest somewhere in America, but she’s always kind of harbored loving feelings for Simon. And then there’s Baz, Simon’s Malfoy, who he’s roomed with for years, and at the conclusion of the story prior to Carry On, was making out with Agatha before The Humdrum (Voldemort) does his Voldemorting.
The beauty of the book is, Baz has a crush on Simon, even though they are sworn enemies and Simon’s supposedly straight. Agatha is sick of being Simon’s handbag in the form of the princess in the other castle and kind of wants to chuck the whole secret magic world aside to be normal. And Penny wants Simon even though she won’t admit it to herself. There’s so many amazing layers to how she puts it together.
It’s an ALRIGHT love story, but so impressive for how many threads are woven into the novel. Fans of Rowell will assuredly squee with glee. And even though I wasn’t keen on her most recent works, I dug this one.