Oh what fun! This was such a delightful read during the grim darkness of winter. I have read a few books by Rainbow Rowell that I really loved and one that didn’t work for me. When Carry On popped up at the library, I was looking for something frothy and fun and escapist, and I had no expectation about the story. I could not have chosen a better book.
Simon Snow, a 17 year old boy, is the most powerful wizard ever, but he is like a magical puppy, in that he flops everywhere and has very little control over his magic or other aspects of his life. He has a tragic backstory that doesn’t seem to weigh too heavily on him, although he is lonely and quite underfed when away from school. All in all, this book starts like a stereotype. However, Rowell’s delightful way of skipping through all of the back story and bringing us to the current ‘big bad’- the Insidious Humdrum – is so surprising. We don’t have chapters-long exposition on to hold a wand or other technical details to bog down the story – because, in the end, what Simon is really angsty about is his gorgeous, unpleasant roommate, Baz, who is missing. Simon roams about the grounds and mopes here and there and reminisces about how he followed his roommate everywhere the past year, trying to uncover his wicked ways. The story really picks up when Baz reappears, having been kidnapped by numpties (such lovely names for terrible or not-so-terrible creatures). Ultimately the story is about Simon and Baz discovering ways to overcome their differences to uncover secrets and save the world, along with Simon’s friend Penny.
The uncertainty, teenagerisms, and kissing were great. The spells were charming. For example, ‘U can’t touch this’ creates a barrier and ‘Clean as a whistle’ obviates the need for showers. This book is an addendum, in a way, to Rowell’s book Fangirl. I did not read Fangirl, but definitely plan to and it isn’t necessary to have that background to enjoy this story. Rowell is a terrific writer and took a very familiar (perhaps overused) setting and character set and created something really wonderful and unexpected.