Thursday, October 15, 2015
Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I didn't expect to love Carry On nearly as much as I actually did. Admittedly, I've been shipping Simon and Baz ever since Fangirl but mostly, I came away from Fangirl dying over Cath and Levi (obviously). I adored their story and enjoyed Simon and Baz's interactions along the way. But Carry On? Oh. My. God. I will die with this ship. Seriously. Rainbow Rowell characterizes Simon and Baz perfectly, tracing their violent past, their "hatred" for one another, and transforming into a completely believable, utterly adorable, entirely sexy romance.
Now, that's not to say that Carry On is a perfect novel. To me, its strength lies in the fact that I fell so hard for these characters and their interactions. In fact, my rating is a primarily emotional one: I love Simon and Baz, separately but mostly together. What I will say, criticizing this book, is that it feels like a part of a whole. Loosely based off of Harry Potter, Rowell's "fanfiction" lacks the length of Rowling's epic. We don't know the intimate details of Simon's past six years; his relationship with the Mage (think: Dumbledore) as it developed over time, his friendship with Penelope (think: Hermione's brains with Ron's loyalty and his large family) or his relationship with his girlfriend, Agatha. While Rowell does an excellent job of truly fleshing out these core secondary characters, especially as they relate to Simon, there are still gaps that are felt in the narrative.
Additionally, Rowell's world and plot is quite different from Rowling's, though I'd argue quite complex, but it's difficult to get a strong grasp on it since we don't have prequels of world-building the way we do when reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I really love Carry On for what it is but when compared to other fantasy novels, it definitely comes off as lacking. Moreover, the deaths and emotional aspects of this book were relatively lost on me, both because I didn't have a strong connection to all of the secondary characters (some who play really important roles towards the end) and also because the romance feels were so overwhelmingly in this narrative. Now, that's not to say that the romance takes over or is the focus but it's a huge part, at least in that the romance contributes to the growth of the two leads immensely.
I still, though, loved Rowell's latest. It's my favorite of her YA line-up, though Fangirl comes in a close second (though Attachments is still unbeatable IMO). Carry On was un-put-down-able for me and I read it all in one sitting, devouring Simon and Baz's story and their incredible romance. I love nothing more than copious amounts of sexual tension, fantastical elements, and an epic reveal that changes the trajectory of the plot and Carry On had all those elements. Plus, Rowell drops in plenty of diverse characters, which I appreciate so much and her writing, as always, is impeccable. If you're a fan of Fangirl this is obviously a must-read but if you're a fan of romance, in general, or are just craving a different type of love story from the all-too-familiar, then Carry On isn't to be missed. I want more romances like this: where I can root for the main characters regardless of gender or sexual orientation or race and just be caught up in the love. One thing I'm certain of, having finishing this novel, is that carry on I simply cannot; I'm going to be stuck in this world for a long time to come.