Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published in October 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

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.

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This review should really have been written a year and a half ago when I first read Carry On, chewing through the entire book in one day. But I never got around to actually writing down my (very enthusiastic) thoughts, so I put Carry On on my “to be re-read soon” pile and now I finally took the time to do it! My re-read was the result of a pretty big reading slump – I just needed to re-read a favorite and fall in love with books again. There are spoilers in here (because that’s how I roll these days), so you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s been a while since its publication, and you’ve been warned. So.

Carry On has received mixed reviews – and I can absolutely see why. It’s a big mess of a book, the setting and topic and everything so reminiscent of Harry Potter, some people couldn’t get past it. I guess it’s possible to read it as a sort of parody. Rowell picked a ridiculous number of fantasy tropes and mashed them all together and yes, the resulting story is overwhelming at times.

But I loved it. I loved it the first time when I barely grasped what I was reading because I was so eager to see what happens and I loved it now that I took my time to savor Rowell’s writing.

I think it’s mostly the characters who make this story great. Rowell’s characters always have this fascinatingly real feel to them (see my reviews of Eleanor & Park and Attachments and Fangirl if you want to read more gushing praise), even if they’re vampires, ha. Something about them just speaks to me and they get under my skin and I can’t help but root for them. It’s good to know that I can trust an author to create likeable characters every time.

Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch are among my favorite YA couples of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked that they were more preoccupied with the fact that they were supposed to be mortal enemies than by being “hopelessly queer”. Coming out stories are important and powerful but I enjoyed reading a book where the fact that they weren’t even both human was more important than their sexual orientation. (Not that there was no mention of it. There were confusion and questions and people judging. But none of that mattered in the end. Because <3.)

I also enjoyed the side characters, Penelope in particular. I want to read her story. I even liked Agatha – the first time I read the book she sort of seemed pale and unimportant, but she’s a really intriguing young woman if you pay attention to her. I’d read her story, too.

And can I say that I wanted to clap when I read the ending? Flipping the Chosen One trope on its head was the best thing ever. I didn’t know what to expect with all this talk about Simon being the Greatest Mage that ever lived and his power being amazing, and then he sort of just fizzled out instead of being a big hero. Well, he did sort of save the day in the end – unintentionally. He didn’t want this burden, he didn’t enjoy his role, and for once, he wasn’t made to accept it and “grow a pair”, but was left to live the rest of his life in peace. I really liked that.

I now have only Landline to read (and a couple of novellas). I have a copy on my shelf, but I’m afraid to read it because it might not be as good as I want it to be and then I’ll have to wait for her next book to be released, which is just horrible. I’ll auto-buy all her books from now on, and I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already.

Have you read Carry On? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

  • When I read Fangirl, the Simon & Baz scenes annoyed me, so I would just skip them. The mixed reviews for this one definitely put me off a bit, but I’m thinking I need to change that because your review makes a strong case for it. I obviously HAVE to meet Simon & Baz if they are two of your favorite YA couples! :)
    Lovely review!

    • Thanks, Nick! :)

      And yeah, I skipped over Simon & Baz parts in Fangirl, too. But this is completely different! Okay the characters are the same but it’s really good. But like you said – mixed reviews. Some people couldn’t get into it. I hope you’ll like it if you decide to give it a try! :)

  • I really want to like Rainbow Rowell but her break-out-book-the-name-of-which-I-have-forgotten did not pull me in at all. I think Fangirl and this follow up may be the ones that will appeal to me the most but I’m still a little wary. You make this one sound so awesome though…
    Hope this one helped you break out of your slump!!

    • Kaja

      I’m sorry Rowell’s writing doesn’t work for you. It’s just the way it is – it can’t be for everyone. Well if you didn’t like Fangirl, I’m thinking this probably also won’t be for you… But if you can get it at your library, it’s worth a try, maybe.

      • OKay, so my comment is unintelligible, lol. The book I was trying to refer to was Eleanor and Park which I couldn’t get into. Fangirl, which I have tried does sound more up my alley as does this follow-up. I not write good. Sorry and thanks for letting me ramble and (hopefully) clarify. Blergh.

  • I’m glad you loved this! I, unfortunately, did not. I thought the magic system was such a joke, I couldn’t take it seriously. Maybe I should have gone in thinking of it as a parody. However, I absolutely adored every single Baz-Simon scene. They’re definitely one of my favorite YA ships! For that alone, I’m glad I read the book.

    Have you heard of any new Rainbow Rowell books in the works?

    • Kaja

      I know, I remember we talked about this when it first came out. I loved the magic system BECAUSE it was such a joke. :D It seems to be one of those hate/love things.

      And YES Simon and Baz are amazing. So cute!

      I follow Rowell on Instagram, so there’s been some hints on a book she’s writing for Marvel? So I’m guessing it’s a superhero book, like Bardugo and Maas. (I don’t know if those are out yet? I’m a bit disconnected with the YA community atm). She said she has TWO wips but no titles or anything have been announced. I’m hoping for MORE soon!

      • Oh, that’s right.

        Hmm. I vaguely know what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty disconnected from the YA community, too. Let me know if you hear anything else!

  • Chrystal M

    I still havrnt put my thoughts down on paper for this one, but do i really need to? You’ve summed it all up here perfectly. How can anyone not love Simon & Baz? OTP!

    Read Landline. It’s so good! The only one i have to read still is Attachments. I ♡ Rainbow Rowell’s writing and will read anything she writes.

    • Kaja

      Haha, thanks Chrystal! :) I agree, Simon and Baz are fantastic, and this seems to be a consensus even among those who didn’t like other aspects of the book.

      Attachments is WONDERFUL! I’m glad you liked Landline. But Attachments is like a warm hug. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. I keep recommending it! And I really should re-read it soon. :)

  • All you’re doing is make me want to reread this book… and every other book by Rainbow Rowell. I mean, Carry On was a hot mess of fantasy tropes… but the writing is so brilliant that you really can’t help but enjoy it.

    I adored Simon and Baz as a couple, I loved the entire book but their relationship was the best. I want to reread for them because the journey from hate (or slight dislike because it was expected) to love was great.

  • MoonstoneBooks

    I really love Carry On! I am reading it again currently, and I am loving it just as much, if not more this time around. The only other Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read is Fangirl, I liked that one a lot, but Carry On is my favorite of the two.