The Simon Snow books are fan fiction of fan fiction, from a fan fiction about fan fiction (or something like that), meaning that they are both adherents to and parodies of the Chosen One genre of fantasy story. They do this very well, and are very entertaining reads.
In addition to clearly having fun with tropes and stereotypes, Wayward Son in particular adds what could almost be called a brand of emotional realism to the character and story types. In stories like Harry Potter (which Simon Snow is an acknowledged tribute to-read Fan Girl, and Carry On if you doubt me), after the big climactic battle, there is a massive time skip before we see that everyone turned out how they should have, Harry as the powerful Aurer (I think that’s the term; it’s been a while since I’ve read those novels), Hermione and Ron pursuing their expected careers, and everyone paired off according to the predicted attachments. What we don’t see is how they get to those stable points in their lives. Wayward Son goes there, and it’s really hard emotionally for Simon to deal with life after being a Chosen One. He has no path, and worries about being a burden on his friends who do seem to have one. This is my biggest complaint; Simon and Baz cannot seem to talk to each other as a healthy pair of romantic partners should. I know they’re young and dealing with some difficult things, but still, why can no one in this series talk to each other about something personal and serious? The same thing happens for Agatha, who comes off looking like the spoiled princess who runs away from the fight and refuses to deal with the responsibilities of her privilege at the end of the first novel; Agatha wants to be Normal, except with magic and prestige she currently has (not terribly likable), but she starts to find her way by the end of this part of the story- in a way this is almost more about her Chosen One story than it is Simon’s.
Most of the novel is the magical road trip across the US which is in many ways really funny if you know both the American Midwest and the UK. Penny and Baz are a little baffled by the size of Nebraska and how long it take to drive through, and it’s moments like that that add to the entertainment. I rather wish we could have seen what these slightly snobbish British young adults think of something like Runzas. Simon eventually starts to deal with his issues, but it takes tangling with vampires, meeting a dragon, inconvenient loss of magic, a Normal who is a little too interested in them and their magic, and trying to save Agatha, first from herself and then from bad guys. The biggest surprise was for Penny who learns a rather harsh but necessary lesson about herself and dealing with other people. That was some welcome character development, and again this kind of thing adds a little realism.
This was exactly the light but entertaining reading I needed, and when I realized that this series will eventually be a trilogy (although I haven’t seen a publication date for book 3 yet, just the title announcement) I have great hope for more of the same.