Review – Carry On

Posted March 23, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Carry On by Rainbow RowellCarry On, Rainbow Rowell

Ever since I heard Rowell was actually going to write this, I’ve really wanted it. I mean, it explicitly features two boys being idiots in love, in exactly the same way as Rowell’s other books portray heterosexual couples being stupid (and sweet, and impossible, and teenage). And people were so excited about it — it seemed pretty mainstream. So that was cool. And then of course it takes an adversarial relationship a la Harry and Draco and develops it into love, which is one of my things.

Did it live up to my hopes? Hell yes. I was worried about a couple of things: in Fangirl, the world of Carry On was basically created to take the place of Harry Potter. I don’t actually like Harry Potter (sorry), and I was also worried that this would just turn out to be a serial-numbers-filed-off version. That didn’t happen: I was actually impressed with the way Rowell constructed her fantasy world, especially the power of words — and the way that pervaded the whole narrative: the worst thing to do to a mage is to steal their words, and at one point Simon says something trying to make it true. Perfect.

Another concern was, well, I didn’t like Draco. I thought he was slimy and cowardly. Now, Baz isn’t perfect — but he’s a worthy lead, flaws and all. He doesn’t always do the right thing, and he has opinions that we might not 100% endorse, but he’s in a difficult position and he works with what he’s got.

Finally, I was worried that Simon and Baz being gay (or bisexual, or demisexual as some people suggest, in Simon’s case) would be a Big Thing. Actually, it shockingly isn’t. There are a few points where Simon isn’t sure about it, but it isn’t a Big Angsty Issue. And Rowell writes them well; I love the way Baz only calls Simon by name when they’re “being soft with each other”. It all feels pretty boyish.

As for the rest, well — Penelope Bunce, guys. She’s all the great things about Hermione and Ron in one, without the annoying pettiness. And she has an amazing friendship with Simon — yes, a boy and a girl being friends in YA without complications, without romance. Hurrah!

Despite the fact that Agatha got to have a voice, I didn’t feel like it was quite fair to her. She seemed fickle and cowardly, when wanting to have a life of her own was a perfectly reasonable wish, and wanting to be loved now and for herself, not as the Happy Ever After In Waiting. Still, the way it examines the tropes of the Chosen One and the Happily Ever After are welcome and interesting.

I didn’t want it to be over, and I am definitely reading it again in future.

“It’s okay,” Baz says. “It’s all okay now.” One arm is tight around Simon’s back, and the other is smoothing his hair out of his face. “You did it, didn’t you?” Baz whispers. “You defeated the Humdrum. You saved the day, you courageous fuck. You absolute nightmare.”

Rating: 5/5

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6 responses to “Review – Carry On

  1. YAY, I’ve been waiting for your review of this one (I still haven’t written mine. I think I’ll have to re-read it before I do).
    I loved Simon and Baz, they were so awkward and Rowell just writes the BEST characters. Seriously, how does she do it?!
    I was afraid of the Harry Potter comparison, too, but I just enjoyed her reimagining of The Chosen One *so much*! I’m sick of reading about all these “special” individuals and Simon was a great antithesis to them.
    And yeah, Penelope is my heroine. She’s smart and loyal and bright and everything I want a girl character to be. I didn’t think much of Agatha, to be honest, I just wanted Simon to pull his head out of his ass and realize he’s in love with Baz (but then I really like romance, so Agatha’s lack of love was pretty dull to me).

    I’ll be reading EVERYTHING Rowell writes, probably, she’s the best. 🙂 Great review, Nikki!

    • That is a very good excuse to reread! Heh. Agatha… she was interesting, because she had a valid point in some ways about not wanting to be a happily ever after, wanting to be Simon’s now — but she never really hit that note again.

      And hey, I was worried Simon and Baz would take a lot longer. At least we had progress by halfway through!

  2. Glad you enjoyed this one, Nikki. The Simon/Baz fan fiction in Fangirl was my least favorite part. I didn’t get how it fit into Cathy’s storyline and end up skipping most of those bits (I’m horrible reader, I know). I’ve decided to skip this one, but I am looking forward to Rainbow’s next release.
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    • It’s really nothing to do with Cath’s story. It’s a story all of its own, and only tangentially related to Fangirl. You don’t need to have read the bits in that book to understand Carry On perfectly! If that might tempt you!

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