Rainbow Rowell was inspired by her own Simon Snow novel and fanfiction that she created in her novel Fangirl, so she decided to go ahead and turn it into its own book (now a trilogy). Both paying homage to subverting other Chosen One and fantasy novels, as well as fanfiction, Simon Snow is the story of a mage grappling with being the Chosen One while also living his day-to-day life with its attendant relationship dramas. In particular, it is expected that he will save the World of Mages from the Humdrum, which creates magical dead spots in the world. His closest friend is Penny who usually accompanies him on his adventures, and his apparent nemesis and roommate is Baz, who Simon is pretty sure is a vampire.
The novel most closely aligns with Harry Potter (both novels include Chosen One orphans who start attending a magic school at age 11 and repeatedly have to deal with evils that probably should have been left to adults). However, it also points out some of the flaws in the Harry Potter series, such as the Mage sending Simon to live an unpleasant life in an orphanage each summer, similar to how Harry always had to return to his abusive home in the summer, only Simon Snow overtly addresses this.
I love the magic that Rowell created. Magic spells are based on well-known phrases, books, song lyrics, lullabies, and poems (e.g., “out damned spot” to clean something). If these start to go out of style and stop being used, they also stop being as effective as spells. It’s really creative, and it’s entertaining to see what characters come up with. They can use different phrases to get the same effect. I also appreciated Rowell’s inclusivity of marginalized groups. There are gay and lesbian couples, and Penny is a person of color.
The characters are moderately well fleshed out and not one-dimensional (e.g., not wholly evil, not wholly good). I’m on the waiting list at the library for the sequel Wayward Son and can’t wait to read it and see where these characters go next and how their relationships with each other deepen.