Carry On by Rainbow Rowell has been recommended to me by several people for ages, but no one was so insistent on my reading it than my friend Vee, who kept insisting that as a Darry and Larry lover, this book was up my street and down my alley. Now, being a typical, contrary Aquarius, I refused to read the book simply because people wanted me to far too much. However, I’m so glad I finally gave in.
Carry On is a fantasy novel which is basically Harry Potter satire. It’s funny and fresh and has some pretty astoundingly poetic sections which will blow you away.
“He’s a book full of footnotes brought to life. He’s a jacket made of elbow patches.”
Basically, Simon Snow is the ‘chosen one’, but he’s the worst possible candidate for the job ever. He’s incredibly powerful but has almost no control over his magic at all. Sometimes he can’t cast spells at all and other times he casts them with far too much power. He’s an orphan who attends a school of magic which is run by a rather annoying character called ‘The Mage’, who believes Simon is the chosen one and therefore needs guidance and protection.
I really loved how the author didn’t take themselves too seriously in this book, poking fun at the Harry Potter series while seeming to celebrate everything that made the Harry Potter books great.
For example, non-magical people are called ‘normals’, and the spells are very straightforward descriptions of their purpose, such as ‘up, up, and away’ or ‘a little bird told me. There is a coven of officials who handle the laws and politics of the magical world, and there is a villain – ‘The Insidious Humdrum’ – who threatens the safety of the world and who keeps sending danger poor Simon’s way.
All of this is very obviously tongue-in-cheek about Harry Potter’s ‘muggles’, Latin spells, the ‘Ministry For Magic’, and ‘Voldemort’. But there are several aspects that Rowell honours, such as the close friendship Simon has with his friend Penny, who is basically a less uptight Hermione Granger who is more than willing to break a rule or two.
“She told me later that her parents had told her to steer clear of me at school.
“My mum said that nobody really knew where you came from. And that you might be dangerous.” “Why didn’t you listen to her?” I asked.
“Because nobody knew where you came from, Simon! And you might be dangerous!”
“You have the worst survival instincts.”
“Also, I felt sorry for you,” she said. “You were holding your wand backwards.”
My favourite aspect of the book, however, was Simon’s romantic journey. It starts off so very much like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, with Simon trailing Baz’s every move and being obsessed about his intentions, whereabouts, and everything in between. He talks about Baz, who has been his roommate the entire time he has attended the school, so much that Penny had to place rules on how often and why Simon is allowed to talk about Baz. Seeing as this is someone Simon is supposed to hate, the reader is immediately dubious and I had Baz marked out as a potential love interest immediately.
At the beginning of the book, Simon is in a relationship with Agatha, someone who I intensely dislike. However, that disaster of a relationship ends and Simon finally finds romance with Baz, as we all knew he would and should.
I really like how the shifting points of view showcase the relationship between Simon and Baz, as it’s not all from Simon’s perspective. In fact, as much as I love Simon, my favourite parts are from Baz’s sections of the book. His descriptions of what it’s like to share a room with Simon are pure poetry and, as over-the-top as it can seem, it’s also weirdly relatable.
“Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.
He’s constantly drawing you in. And you’re constantly stepping too close. And you know it’s not good–that there is no good–that there’s absolutely nothing that can ever come of it.
But you do it anyway.
Well. Then you burn.”
The actual moment of romance between Simon and Baz is so sweet and passionate and just so overly dramatic all at the same time that I read it at least three times, savouring the pure amazingness of the moment. I mean, a declaration of love in a burning forest? Who wouldn’t melt at that?
“What you are is a fucking tragedy, Simon Snow. You literally couldn’t be a bigger mess.”
He tries to kiss me, but I pull back- “And you like that?”
“I love it.” He says
“Because we match.”
I also loved that Simon is unapologetically bisexual and doesn’t feel the need to stop and have a random coming out declaration, nor is there a slow burn of realising he has feelings for a guy after being with a girl for the majority of his time at the school. No, he just has feelings for Agatha, and then realises he has feelings for Baz. It’s so refreshing and like real life in that sense and I love that there was finally a young adult character who was bisexual who didn’t feel the need to be the ‘bisexual stereotype’ where they’re confused and over-sexualised, nor did he go from straight to gay with chapters of confusion.
I’m not saying those things don’t happen and I would never want to diminish the stress and emotional strain that comes with realising you are gay when you previously thought otherwise, but being bisexual is usually either used for comedic purposes or it’s overlooked entirely. As someone who personally identifies as bisexual, this was a fantastic aspect of the story and it just made me fall in love with Simon’s character that little bit more.
In short, this book is a dream for anyone who loves Harry Potter and Drarry and I wish I could rewind time and read it again for the first time. I’m now adding Snowbaz to my list of ships, along with Larry and Drarry.