Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Spoiler-Free Review

Sydney Liao

I’ll be honest: I was skeptical about Rainbow Rowell switching genres, which is why I put off reading Carry On for so long. Rowell is known for her YA contemporary romances, featuring incredibly real characters, all of them fully-developed. I was curious to see how Rowell played with fantasy and afraid of being disappointed. However, Rowell delivers, managing to retain all of the YA contemporary elements that readers love from Fangirl and Eleanor & Park.


The story is presented through the first-person perspective of a selection of characters, particularly main characters Simon Snow and Baz. The book is divided into four sections, and it is during the second section that we finally meet the mysterious Baz, who is constantly mentioned but does not make an appearance in the first part. In my opinion, the story truly takes off from the end of the first section.


It’s hard to ignore Carry On’s resemblance to the Harry Potter series. Like Harry Potter, Simon Snow is prophesied to save the magical world. There’s a school of magic, a frustratingly reserved headmaster, a trio of friends who can’t stay out of trouble, and political turmoil, all characteristics of Harry Potter books. However, the story takes its own shape through the various character twists, unique character relationships, and pop culture references; Rowell isn’t afraid to weave in contemporary elements along with the fantasy.


As expected from Rowell, the story is driven by its characters. Although the plot follows a very basic fantasy storyline, the characters bring the world Rowell has created to life. Once again, she writes characters that are memorable, each with their own quirks and flaws and unique background. Rowell also does an exceptional job of connecting the various sub-plots and surprising the reader, from Simon’s connection to the Insidious Humdrum (the antagonist), to Simon and Baz’s relationship, to the Mage’s history.


Of course, there are a couple of aspects that let me down, the first being the Mage’s obvious plot twist. Due to his ambiguous character, I labeled him as a suspect early on and was not at all shocked when his true nature was revealed. Additionally, the worldbuilding in this book felt weirdly off–a mix of being overly ambitious and lacking. At times it seemed like Rowell tried to fit too much in one book; at other times, she could have included more details to further establish the world of mages. However, these minor details do not significantly interfere with the story and my feelings towards it as a whole.


Although I don’t adore Carry On as much as I do Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, it was a solid page-turner, filled with the right amount of action, romance, and dialogue. I am eager for the release of its sequel Wayward Son and am excited to see where Simon and Baz’s adventures take them next. If you’re a Rainbow Rowell fan, or are looking for a book that deftly blends fantasy and YA contemporary romance, then Carry On is definitely worth a read.


Goodreads Synopsis:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.


That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.


Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.


Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.