When some people hear the genre “Young Adult Fiction,” they may assume literary fluff, sugar-coated stories lacking any real substance. Well-written young adult fiction is anything but, and explores themes that are relevant not only to adolescents, but speaks to the general human condition. As such, I’ve decided to delve deeper into the genre starting with one of my favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell. Her books Eleanor and Park and Fangirl are lovely, bittersweet odes to growing up, friendship, love and developing into the person you’re meant to be.
Rowell’s latest book, Carry On, is interesting in that it’s based on a fictional series present in Fangirl. In the Fangirl universe, the series focuses on a boy-wizard named Simon Snow and his adventures at his wizarding school, Watford School of Magicks. With his best friend, the clever and loyal Penelope, and his girlfriend Agatha, Simon battles his school rival Baz and the magic world’s boogeyman, the Insidious Humdrum. The Simon Snow series is briefly explored in Fangirl, while Carry On fully details the ultimate chapter of the 8-book series.
The Simon Snow series obviously exhibits some similarities with another literary boy-wizard plucked from obscurity to become his world’s “chosen one.” Both series includes the secret existence of magical societies, with children learning to develop their magical abilities at dedicated wizarding boarding schools. Also, there exists an “ultimate evil,” here the Insidious Humdrum, a being that sucks the magic from the environment creating “magical dead spots,” leaving magicians and magical creatures unable to use their magic. As such, Carry On is a wonderful substitute for those who are itching to get their Harry-Potter fix.
However, Carry On more fully delves into themes regarding economic class, with older, richer families being afforded more opportunities for learning and legal advantages. Also, the book is novel in its inclusion and focus of homosexual characters. For example, Snow’s roommate Baz grapples with his homosexual identity, particularly his feelings regarding Snow, who Baz’s family views as their magical adversary. The reader is presented with all of these differing views regarding class, race, and sexuality, given that each chapter in the story is told from a particular character’s perspective.
Overall, Carry On is a worthy addition to the magical/fantasy genre, with believable adolescent dialogue and situations, and a surprisingly sweet and sexy romantic subplot. An entire Simon Snow series would be most welcome to read.