3 out of 5 stars
It really pains me to give a Rainbow Rowell book such a low rating, and 3 stars is pretty generous. For the first nearly 200 pages of this 500+ page book, I was bored to tears and slowly chewing the cud that is this Harry Potter ripoff. However, there is a point at which the love story is announced, and at that moment I was hooked. It was still derivative and annoying, but suddenly the story picked up pace and I finished it quickly. (Why did I even give it 200 pages, you ask? It’s for my book club.)
Carry On is the dregs of Rowell’s previous YA novel Fangirl, about a girl in her freshman year of college who writes fan fiction about her favorite series of books. That series is about a teenage wizard named Simon Snow, and Carry On is the story of Simon’s final year of school: fighting the Insidious Humdrum; managing the rivalry between his best friend, Penelope, and his girlfriend, Agatha; and staying on the lookout for his archrival and roommate, Baz (Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch). The premise attempts to squeeze seven books’ worth of fantasy world-building into one last book. Rowell also deliberately sets up Simon’s world in Fangirl as Harry Potter, which painted her into a corner when it came time to write this book. (Not that that time needed to come IMHO.) Carry On also, unfortunately, prominently features vampires, which I especially detest.
Someone please give Rowell a new topic so she can get back to writing incredible, heart-wrenching love stories, instead of mediocre adventure stories with a love story subplot!
UPDATE: I just wanted to share some thoughts from my fellow book club members. Some of them really liked it and mentioned that it was intended to be the fanfic that Cath was writing in Fangirl, in fact complete with the excerpts we saw in that first book. It had been so long since I’d read Fangirl that I didn’t realize this. The other point they made was that the romance was useful in that it explores different approaches to sexuality and definitions. Baz is relatively open about being gay, but Simon is okay with the ambiguity of his sexuality, which is a powerful message to send to anyone in the throes of trying to figure that out for themselves.