CBR 13 Bingo: Rep – Rowell’s portrayal of Simon’s depression is a very frank picture of what depression can feel like and how it affects relationships.
Contains Spoilers if you have not read Carry On and Wayward Son.
This is Part Two of my rereading books one and two of Rainbow Rowell’s, Simon Snow trilogy, before starting number three, Any Way the Wind Blows. Part One can be found here. And if you’re interested in my original thoughts on those two books, they can be found here. This isn’t so much a review as a discussion of Simon and his depression.
At the start of Wayward Son, Simon muses that his therapist feels that sorting out his sexuality is not even in the top 5 list of things that Simon needs to work out. Simon has never had an easy time of life. The childhood trauma that he experienced constantly being shuffled between foster homes did not end with his induction into the World of Mages at the age of eleven. It compounded as Simon was now a pawn in a magical war and thrown into an entirely new world he didn’t understand, with hardly any parental/adult figure support other than the Mage who had adopted him. But as we now know, the Mage was an utter crap person who took advantage of and abused Simon. For eighteen years Simon has probably lived in some form of fight or flight nearly all the time. He even tells Baz that he doesn’t plan, it’s always reaction. Simon had a dream that if he survived the war with the Insidious Humdrum he would marry Agatha, the golden girl, and they would live happily ever after. However, he didn’t expect TO survive the war. At the end of Carry On, Simon has chosen a different happy ending but warns Baz that he is a crap boyfriend. Admitting that he did not treat Agatha the way she deserved.
At the start of Wayward Son Simon is coping with PTSD and has sunk into a deep depression. He doesn’t know what to do with himself now that his job as the Chosen One is over. He’s spent the last eight years being the hero, rushing from danger to danger, and now the danger is all gone. Simon never really thought about his future and now it’s stretching before him aimlessly. His whole world has changed once again; the one person that Simon looked to as a somewhat parental figure betrayed him on every level possible, he no longer has to be on constant guard to fight evil, his magic is gone, and he longer has the stability that Watford provided. The one bright spot in Simon’s life is Baz but Simon no longer knows how to be with Baz.
Simon’s self esteem is so low he feels that Baz deserves to be with someone better than himself. He worries that Baz is only still with him out of a sense of obligation. The ease between them that came with the danger and plotting is now gone. Along with self worth, Simon struggles with body image, unsure of what he wants to do regarding the wings and tail. He was a crap boyfriend to Agatha and now he’s convinced that he is being a crap boyfriend to Baz too. In his head, Simon has assured himself it’s best to break things off with Baz, so Baz can move on. Depression lies and these are the lies spreading through Simon’s head.
The combination of depression and Simon’s language block has made it so he doesn’t know how to express any of this. He withdraws further and further into himself. It breaks Baz’s heart watching Simon become a shell of his former self. He wants to make things better but is afraid of doing the wrong thing and pushing Simon further away. I’ve been on both sides of this equation and Rowell does a compassionate job of showing how a relationship can be with and for a depressed person. I know how it can feel when the depression lifts for a bit and joy returns to one’s life. Simon needs this time in America as it helps him remember what it was like before the depression sank in. However, it’s only a distraction and doesn’t address the roots of the depression. By the end, Simon is able to admit that he no longer fits into the supernatural world but he only has vague ideas of what to do next. Baz is miserable hoping for Simon to realize that they belong together. Overcoming the lies of depression isn’t easy and takes time.
Since Rowell ended Wayward Son on a cliff hanger, I’ve been anxiously waiting to see how this all turns out for Simon and Baz. I desperately want the two to figure their relationship out and how to be with each other in a healthy way. And now that I’ve finished this review, I finally give myself permission to start Any Way the Wind Blows!
Note: This was the closest I could get to a flowery scarf to represent Baz’s scarf from his mother.