Rowell, Rainbow. Carry On. 2015. New York. St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan
Carry On is the story of young wizards Simon Snow and Basilton “Baz” Pitch. They attend the Watford School of Magicks in England. Simon is the chosen one and not the greatest either. It will take all he has to stop the Insidious Humdrum and save the wizarding world. With the help of his friends Baz, Penelope, and Agatha he just might pull it off. Teens will relate to both Simon and Baz’s struggles with school, romance, family, sexual orientation, and finding their place in the world.
Carry On was the fanfiction story that the main character, Kath was writing in Rowell’s novel Fangirl. The Simon Snow novels are Rowell’s nod to the Harry Potter series. Slash fan-fiction or Male/Male romance is quite common within various fandoms. One could make the case that Carry On is a fan-fiction about Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter with enough original material to differentiate it from the source. Regardless of that, the novel is very engaging, and the multiple points of view allow the reader to delve into the story more fully.
Simon is a terrible chosen one, as he isn’t very good at casting spells. He’s very powerful, but has little to no control over his abilities. The Mage is Simon’s Dumbledore, but through most of the book he’s very withdrawn. Simon spends the first part of the novel trying to find out what’s happened to Baz, and why he didn’t show up for the start of the school term. The first 150 pages in fact are Baz-less, and focus on backstory. When Baz finally does arrive the novel becomes more entertaining. Baz and Simon work together to solve the murder of Baz’s mother who was supposedly killed by vampires. Simon is the clumsy more relatable character in the story, and a contrast to Baz who is cool, sophisticated, and more magically talented.
Baz is in love with Simon from the start of the reader getting to know him. He’s from a rich magical family, but his being a vampire makes his life more difficult. Vampires are not welcomed in magical society, and are considered a lower class than wizards. Baz keeps people at a distance with his sarcasm and wit, but he eventually starts to let Simon in when they start solving his mother’s murder. The way Simon and Baz fall is love is sweet, and doesn’t happen too quickly like some romances.
The Magic System in Carry On may bother some readers. Spells are familiar poems or cliché phrases which can be repeated for effect. One would definitely need classes as it seems every possible phrase could be a spell. As far as magical academies go Watford doesn’t really distinguish itself much in the novel. Rowell is excellent at building character, but the setting feels neglected. There isn’t a lot of action in the novel. Carry On reads more like a mystery, and manages to capture the reader with fantastic characterization.
“With rock-solid worldbuilding, a sweet and believable romance subplot, and satisfying ending, Carry On is a monumentally enjoyable reading experience.
Hand this to fans of Rowell, Harry Potter, love stories, and magic.”
―School Library Journal
“Stock up on copies―this one begs to be reread.” ―Booklist
Reviewed by Beth K.