Sunday, October 25, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': carry on

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


synopsis: Rainbow Rowell continues to break boundaries with Carry On, an epic fantasy following the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from her beloved bestseller Fangirl.

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

full review under the cut!!

If you've been reading my blog for any period of time, you've probably seen me mention Rainbow Rowell. She is one of my most favorite authors and also internet personalities (her tweets are A++) around. In fact, Fangirl, which is the book that lead to the inception of Carry On, is for sure in my top five favorite books ever, that is how much I love it. In my eyes, Rainbow Rowell can do absolutely no wrong. That being said, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard that she was writing an entire book about the characters that she made up for Fangirl. There were many factors that led to my hesitation, including the fact that this is her first fantasy book, was it going to be too much like Harry Potter, would it be too different from what I'm used to from her, etc, but, of course, as time went on, I got more and more excited about it, and I ended up reading it almost on the first day that it came out. And, let's be honest, I fell in love.

Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is *not* the book you are expecting, especially if you are going into it thinking that it is going to basically be a thinly veiled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fanfiction. Yes, you can see the inspiration, the things drawn from Harry Potter throughout, but on the whole, Carry On is wholly its own book, and I appreciate that so much. I love the idea that Harry Potter doesn't have to have a corner on the market in books about wizard schools. There are so many things to explore in this genre, and I hope that this book opens people up to the idea that someone can write about wizard school in YA or MG and it not be about Harry Potter. (I think Soman Chainani's The School for Good and Evil series opens the door up a little bit more too, although those books are more fairytale than strictly magic, but I digress.)

The world of Carry On is something new and something I really enjoyed. For one thing: WIZARDS HAVE CELL PHONES. Halle-frickin-lujah. That is one thing that just made me crazy about Harry Potter the first time I was reading it (when I was like 10 and cell phones were barely even a thing yet) but just the fact that Wizards live out in the normal world and just totally ignore all the awesome technology at their fingertips, that made me crazy! In Carry On, they've got mobiles, they use computers, they have integrated into the "Normal" society quite well. This is something little that just made me happy when I was reading about it.

Second thing being: the magic system. I love the way that the spells were presented, in bold, and I was giggling throughout at the ridiculousness and also damn near genius of the spells. Because why wouldn't something that has weight in pop culture also be an effective tool to channel magic? I love how creative it was, and the pop-culture references were fabulous. I also loved how just putting the emphasis on different syllables could change the meaning of a spell, it just made it much more nuanced. The magic system evolves with the language of the culture that it is situated in, which just makes SO MUCH SENSE! I love it.

The descriptions of Watford were just calling to mind the absolute most idyllic place I could possibly imagine, like almost Anne of Green Gables Vibes mixed with like the tower in Tangled if you catch my meaning. I would love to spend a summer there like chilling with Ebb (SOB) and the goats. I also was *completely* on board for Simon and Baz to be holed away in their little turret of a room, pretending to hate each other. Beautiful. Also, the idea of the crucible casting the roommates together was a super interesting concept to me, especially as it pertained to Baz and Simon and their fates. (I was also impressed with the amount of British slang that Rowell used!)

Let's talk characters! First: Agatha. Gotta be honest with y'all, I didn't care for her, especially in the end. Like, I know its probably difficult that your boyfriend and your best friend are constantly in mortal danger, and I'm sure its so inconvenient that you have magic! I'm so sorry for you! But I realize that she's important as a character, to show that expectations and the place and world that you're born into aren't always the right choice for you, and sometimes you have to be selfish to live the best life that you possibly can. I feel like Agatha is an important character, I just didn't really care for her.

Penny. OH MY she is my gal. She's incredibly brave, outspoken, confident in herself, but also can be abrasive and off-putting, which just made me love her MORE. Her relationship with Simon was one of my favorite things in the whole book. It was like Penny knew, just knew that there was no way Simon would live to be twenty, but she couldn't help but stick by him and be completely there for him anyways. It also made me laugh because its so clear just how much Simon depends on Penny. Literally his chapters are fifty percent him talking about food/Baz, fifty percent quoting Penny or Penny's mom. She is so important to me!!!!

The first line of the synopsis for this book is: "Simon Snow is the worst chosen one that has ever been chosen" and its hysterical because its completely true. He can't control his magic, he is incredibly unobservant and doggedly stubborn, even when his safety is at stake. But he's also brave and loyal and the traits that make him a pretty awful magician are what make him a decent human being. He, being an orphan, tends to obsess over people and things, and I think this is a pretty clear and integral part of his character. He does it with Watford itself, so much so that he has to physically forbid himself from thinking about it when he isn't there, with food (lol), with the Mage, with Penny and most of all with Baz. He has had so little good in his life that he becomes desperate for whatever he can hold onto, so any shred of goodness or kindness, he latches onto. The real mystery is why he does so with Baz, although we find that out later in the book. (i mean, they're so in love with each other. its obvious from page one.) That's why the ending is so heartbreaking! (spoilers) Magic is the thing that gave Simon purpose throughout his formative years, the good thing that held him over when he had to go back to his Normal existence. He was, perhaps, the person who needed magic the most, and he was the person who was a) destroying it and b) got it ripped away from him. It was a completely heartbreaking part of the novel, but infinitely more interesting than anything else.

Now we come to my child, the best part of this novel. TYRANNUS BASILTON GRIMM-PITCH!!! He's stylish! He's sarcastic! He's smart as hell! He's also queer as hell and he doesn't give a shit about what anyone says! He's also a vampire! On the dl though. And! He loves Simon more than anything in the whole damn world! Baz is such an amazing and interesting character, I loved learning more about him. He's involved in this world of money and power and keeping up appearances, and for all intents and purposes, he plays the game, he looks the way he's supposed to and does the things he needs to, but he's got this extremely gritty layer underneath that is nothing like its supposed to be, and I loved that. He's gay, he's a vampire, he's ultimately vulnerable because he's expected to end Simon, but he's willing to die instead. And he just hides this all under an unbelievable amount of snark and sarcasm, to the point of being straight up mean. His third chapter, where he just is going on and on about how he's supposed to hate Simon and how he enjoys messing with him and then he just lays down and gives it all up and is like you know what screw this I'm completely in love with this trainwreck of a boy. I SQUEALED. Beautiful times. Then when Simon kisses him and Baz's head basically explodes and then Simon is like "I'm a shit boyfriend but I'll be yours even if you hate me" and I'm like ohhh simon if you only knew. When they fight the dragon together! When Simon can give all of his power to Baz but no one else can handle it! When they have a literal Christmas together! When Baz tells him to run to protect him! Its all so so so good. But my actual favorite parts of the two of them are three-fold. 1. The chapter from Penny's perspective right after Simon loses his magic where Baz is holding Simon and calls him "love" and Penny just looks over and goes yeah that makes a hell of a lot of sense now that I think about it! 2. When Simon comes to Baz's leavers ball even though Baz told him he didn't have to because of how painful it would be and they dance. 3. when they're moving Simon into his flat! Baz makes Simon do all the work! Baz has a pumpkin mocha breve!!!!!! Domesticity! I love it.

Besides how much I loved the characters and the relationship between Simon and Baz and the magical system in general, I thought the way the whole "Chosen One" prophecy was handled was really unexpected and interesting. The fact that Simon was made purposefully to be that, to have all of those expectations, by his own father was crazy. The fact that the Insidious Humdrum wasn't even an evil person, wasn't even a sentient being! Was just the fact that Simon was too powerful for his own good. The way he defeated him, by pouring all of his too-much magic into the utter absence of it was amazing. The fact that it was the mage that was crazy and evil the entire time was new, and I liked it. When Ebb died, I cried. I loved how she was the most powerful magician, and she chose to be peaceful and emotional and loving.

Y'all. This book! It broke down so many barriers when it comes to wizarding novels and fantasy in general, and I absolutely loved that about it. I would definitely recommend it to you if you're looking for a standalone fantasy that will shake up the way you look at the genre.


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