It seems silly to try to summarize this novel. For a couple of reasons. One, because it’s a story that’s based on a fictional character from another fictional novel (meaning it’s a story made up by a character in a made up story). Two, because everyone who is familiar with Rainbow Rowell, and particularly her novel, Fangirl, already knows all about this novel so trying to describe it feels totally unnecessary. Especially given how many words have already been spilled all over the internet about this book.
But try, I shall, for that’s the name of this game. Or something.
First, a confession: the Simon Snow bits of Fangirl were my least favorite. I’ve reread Fangirl twice and skipped over most of the Simon Snow sections both times. I tell you that so that when I say I really loved this book, you’ll understand where I started.
Carry On is based on a series of novels we first learned about in Fangirl. These novels are written by Gemma T. Leslie, but one of the characters in Fangirl, Cath, borrows some of Leslie’s characters (Simon and Baz, mostly) for her own fanfiction. Simon and Baz are roommates at the Watford School of Magicks and, of course, they hate each other. Simon is The Chosen One, found in an orphanage by a mysterious parental type called The Mage, who brings him into the world of magic. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s on purpose DUH.)
Carry On is a continuation of those novels, but Rowell has gone on record as saying that this novel isn’t fanfic, it’s canon. Which is awesome.
There’s something really incredible about this book. I can’t think of another instance wherein a fictional character, created for a different work of fiction, gets his own story. And it’s popular! So popular. Much of that, I’m sure, is due to Rowell’s following, but it’s also just an engaging story. In most of Rowell’s novels, I eventually reach a point where I just can’t stop reading. Like. Physically cannot stop, no matter how late it is and how early I have to get up in the morning. I don’t know how she does that, but this novel was no different.
Not only do we have this story written about fiction squared fiction (go with me on this), but Simon and Baz are completely bonkers for each other. They’re majorly, totally, butt crazy in love. And it’s sweet because, not only is it first love for both, but because, while Baz has been infatuated with Simon for quite some time, Simon doesn’t know he’s gay, and definitely doesn’t know that his obsession with Baz might be of the romantic variety.
Let’s talk about some of the other characters, though. Penelope Bunce is Simon’s best friend, all of Hermione’s brains and the best parts of Ron Weasley’s attitude. She’s fantastic, a sassy know-it-all who has saved Simon multiple times. Agatha Wellbelove is Simon’s girlfriend at the beginning of the novel, but morphs into someone else altogether by the end, as she figures out that what she really wants might not mesh with what’s expected of her. They’re joined by well fleshed out tertiary characters, who all make up a supremely enjoyable novel.
If there is one failing of this book, it’s that, unlike Harry Potter, it only has one novel in which to make readers fall in love with the world Rowell has made up. It’s unfair to compare the two, but I was disappointed that I didn’t feel more of a connection to the story’s endgame. But it’s only because Rowell didn’t have as many novels to do the world-building, so I can’t fault Carry On for that.