Sunday, October 25, 2015

Carry On » Review

Carry On is a strange novel, with a strange, nesting doll-like genesis.  First, there was a little series called Harry Potter and Rainbow Rowell, a writer, wrote Harry Potter fanfiction online.  Then Rowell published an original novel called Fangirl, where a character, Cath, writes fanfiction about a series called Simon Snow, which Rowell bases off of Harry Potter.  Now, Rainbow Rowell has published the book that Cath the character was writing as fanfiction — and both are titled Carry On. Got that?

Carry On is tied so closely to Harry Potter, it can come across as a spoof at times.  There are jokes that I think poke fun at Rowling's masterpiece a little, such as Voldemort's propensity to attack Harry constantly at Hogwarts — purportedly the safest place for Harry to be.  In Carry On, the Mage, our Dumbledore-like character, tells Simon Snow that he must leave Watford School of Magicks immediately because the Insidious Humdrum just won't stop attacking Simon there.  I got a good laugh in at that.

But aside from the jokes, Carry On is mostly a loving homage to both Harry Potter and the the once thriving culture of Harry Potter fanfiction.  While reading Carry On, I felt enormous nostalgia both for Harry Potter and for one of my favorite pieces of fanfiction, The Shoebox Project.  

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="602"] The Shoebox Project's Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.[/caption]

The Shoebox Project was a multimedia effort by two college students, one a writer and the other an artist, who shared the passionate belief of many that Rowling's characters, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, were so, so gay for each other.  The Shoebox Project was highly sophisticated, hilarious, and moving.  I'm not entirely sure if Rowell is familiar with The Shoebox Project, but I kind of hope she is.  It so perfectly encapsulates what Carry On represents — the brainchild of a nascent writer, made with equal measures of talent and passion, that can never see the mainstream of literature, but is nonetheless followed by many thousands of fans.

Apart from its ties to Harry PotterCarry On stands on its own feet as a powerful and well-written story.  For instance, Rowell writes characters that are clear translations of Rowling's famous characters, but nonetheless emerge as distinct and fully dimensional characters in their own right.  A great example is Penelope Bunce, our Hermione Granger character.  At the beginning of the story, I was only making comparisons between Penelope and Hermione.  As the story went on, however, I stopped comparing and contrasting entirely.  Penelope Bunce was her own, wonderful and clear-cut character.

As for the romance, it was hot without being explicit.  I loved Simon and Baz together — their intense love/hate obsession and their never knowing if they want to smack or smooch each other. There are not tons of mainstream YA books out there with gay romance, but I can see the tide turning soon. Carry On is a great example of how gay romance can bust out of its niche corner and be appreciated by all.

One thing I didn't like about Carry On was the pacing.  Our exposition was enormous. It took a long, long time for the gears to get turning.  And then, the plot ramped up to a fever pitch.  One revelation was coming after the other, the pages of the book were dwindling, and I just wanted to yell, stop, stop, STOP! Slow down! Instead of a proper triangle, the plot looked like a blip on a heart monitor.

Then there were some inconsistencies with the language.  Rowell did a good job at incorporating British slang, especially in a manner than reads like American fanfiction — jumpers, trackies, boaters, etc. What better example than this quote...
"Agatha, is everything, you know, tickety-boo with Simon?"

There were some places though, where the continuity of language lapsed. Baz being described as "smart" instead of "clever" was a glaring oops.  And then, in the beginning portion of the book, we see "magic" be spelled "magick."  However, later in the book, we revert to the popularized spelling.
"Thank magic! I was worried you'd never speak again."

This isn't a big deal, just something I noticed. Overall, I loved Carry On.  I can't recommend it enough for both fans of J. K. Rowling (which is pretty much everyone) and for fans of Rainbow Rowell.

Bravo, Rowell. Carry on writing, and I will carry on reading.

fangtastic FED-THE-NERD magical MALE



  1. I'm so glad you loved this one as well! I haven't read any HP books, but I think I learned to appreciate them by reading Carry On.

  2. […] Sequel: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (I count this as […]

  3. Great review! I'm so excited to get to this one!