Rant and Rave: Carry On

Fanfiction has gotten a bad reputation outside of the fandom community. Mainstream media often trivializes and mocks it, but what many do not realize is that fanfiction can also contain beautiful, poignant stories that resonate within the hearts of fans and non-fans alike. Several have interesting plotlines, well-developed character arcs, and most of all, heart and soul poured into by authors, who write not for fame or money, but because they have stories they want to share with others. Rainbow Rowell’s newest book, Carry On, is a prime example of that.

Image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Carry On is touted as a spin-off of one of Rowell’s previous books, Fangirl. Fangirl gained a lot of support because of its portrayal of fangirls as just ordinary people, who also happen to be dedicated fans who show support by things like writing fanfiction. In the book, the main character frequently writes fanfiction about the fictional Simon Snow series. Simon Snow is to their fictional world what Harry Potter is to us, so it isn’t really shocking that characters in the book are obsessed with the series.

Carry On, on the other hand, is a Simon Snow story, not written by fictional in-book author Gemma T. Leslie, but written by Rowell herself. So in a way, it is more accurate to say that Carry On is a fanfiction based on a fictional book series written by a fictional author in a work of fiction where the main character writes fanfiction about it. If that sentence wasn’t enough to convince you to read this book, carry on reading the rest of this review.

The book is Rowell’s first Simon Snow story, but it is written as if it were the seventh book in the series. Trying to stuff six books’ worth of world-building and character growth into a 500-page book is a tall order, but Rowell delivers. Some of the series’ basic plot points are established in snippets woven in between the main storyline of Fangirl. It’s one of those ‘Chosen One’ stories where the young orphan main character happens to be destined to save the world. Simon Snow is our young protagonist who has long been foretold by prophecy that he will save the World of Mages from the greatest threat they will ever face—not Voldemort, but the Insidious Humdrum. (What is with the trend for fantasy books and their need to have villains with ridiculous names?) Even with the generic fantasy plot, Rowell manages to breathe her own little spin into the book, executing shocking plot twists that will have you reading non-stop. The plot unfolds through multiple POVs, and each character’s distinct voice manages to hook you in if you aren’t already.

Carry On is filled with complex and interesting characters populating a vividly painted world of a magical community co-existing with modern life. The book is set in modern London where ‘mages’ live in secret among the ‘normals’, and magical children are sent off to learn magic in a boarding school, the Watford School of Magicks. Sound familiar? Carry On embraces the fact that it’s a Harry Potter fanfiction, while at the same time addressing some of the issues fans of the beloved series have brought up over the years.

The mages in Rowell’s world are not stuck in the past like their wizard counterparts, and throughout the book, we see characters actually interact with the modern world. They have iPhones, they can use Google, they can drive cars, and most importantly they do not need an ‘expert’ to know what the function of a rubber duck is. Instead of ignorantly staying in the past, the mages actually realize the usefulness of technology and are willing to keep going forward in the context of development. We can see this clearly with their form of magic. In their world, spells come from common turns of phrases or even pop culture references, with the memes of today becoming the spells of tomorrow. The possibilities are endless, and in a world where ‘Have a Break, Have a Kitkat’ is a spell, you know you’re in for a treat.

One of the things that really sets this book apart in the genre is the characters, as Rowell defies the odds by writing a hit book with an LGBT couple and an Asian girl as one of the main characters. In our current times, representation has become more important than ever, and it is refreshingly unique how Rowell has written a book with broader characterizations of main characters. While many shows or books dance around the topic of one or more of their main characters being part of the LGBT community, I commend Rowell for doing away with the subtext and actually explicitly making them an LGBT couple by the end of the book.

Rowell is breaking boundaries with this book, so it is unfortunate that this is a stand-alone novel—it would be amazing to read the entire series. Unfortunately, one can only hope. Here’s to more amazing fantasy books with well-developed plotlines, kickass female characters without the unnecessary romantic subplots, and LGBTQA characters. Carry on reading.

Rating: 3.5 / 4.0

Denise Nicole Uy

By Denise Nicole Uy

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