Welcome to Queer Fudanshi. Let’s Talk. In this post, we’re going to talk about Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
Last weekend, I was in Mexico for the first time to experience Guadalajara Pride, but something else amazing happened during that trip. I got to read Carry On. I bought the book, along with the first installment in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series, as something to read on the flight over. But once I started, I couldn’t stop.
Seriously, I was on a trip for Pride in Guadalajara, but I couldn’t stop reading this book. I read it while driving around the city, I read it in bed every night and every morning, I read it during breaks when I should have been showering or resting, and I even brought my kindle to lunch one day so that I could read it if the conversation with my group died down. I was obsessed.
And so for this Rainbow Radar, I want to recommend this story to all of you.
What is Carry On by Rainbow Rowell?
Carry On is a young adult novel that’s a mix of Harry Potter-inspired adventure tale and sweet/endearing gay romance.
The story follows a young man at the end of his wizarding education and at the brink of death. The mage world is being threatened by a magic sucking entity called the Humdrum, and Simon Snow is gearing up for the final dual against it. But suddenly, his roommate and rival Baz is nowhere to be found. Now, Snow is suddenly more focused on finding Baz than saving the world!
But if you want the official synopsis, you can read that below:
“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 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.”
Where to Buy:
Amazon (US$7.80 Kindle / US$14.99 Hardcover / & more)
Barnes & Noble (US$19.99 Hardcover / US$10.58 Paperback / & more)
And virtually anywhere you can purchase books. But, it may not be available in your country.
Why I Love It
At first, I wasn’t a fan. In fact, I was a little put off by the fact that this novel is an obvious parody of Harry Potter. An orphan boy finds out he’s a mage and is whisked away to a magic school where he befriends a know-it-all, deals with a school bully/rival, suffers through daddy issues with a mentor, and fights a big baddie. Come on Rowell, it couldn’t be more on the nose!
But those similarities don’t deter from the grand story once you enter this alternative dimension to an already familiar story. Characters are fully fleshed out and each one has a role to play in the grand story. Rainbow Rowell took the Harry Potter molding and successfully made it her own.
Part of that is in telling a mature plot around the setting. Carry On is a story of moral middle-zones. There are no rights and wrongs but only people who think they’re right and others are wrong. And the story goes far in showing how everything is somewhere in between. That mature outlook on storytelling greatly helps to make this story much more palatable than its first few chapters.
But outside of the well-crafted world full of differing views/politics, the heart of the story, as with the Potter-verse, is with a group of friends and the joy of magic.
Rainbow Rowell’s creative approach at magic, where tv phrases, music lyrics, and lines from literature have enough power to create instantaneous happenings, is fun and inspired. And while the story isn’t faultless, the characters and world building created one hell of a page-turner. Remember, I read this book in 3-4 days, and it only took that long because I was on a trip in Mexico!
But possibly the shining star of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell was the gay romance at the heart of it.
At the back of my mind, I was constantly aware that this story was going to have a gay romance between this world’s Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t as good as I imagined.
Ironically, this entire book series is an example of the power of fan fiction. Not only is it a heightened form of HarryxDraco fan fiction, but the main character himself is a fan fiction character in Rowell’s literary universe.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell came after Rowell’s novel Fangirl. In that book, Simon is a fictional character that Fangirl’s protagonist writes fan fiction about. (I know, super meta). Rowell then decided to elaborate on Simon’s story by creating an actual series around him and form it in a Harry Potter fan fiction/parody way.
In that vein, the romance between Simon and his Draco-esque roommate Baz Pitch is in theme with the entire parody/fan fiction motif.
Gay Romance and Bi Visibility
But thankfully, the romance doesn’t stop at just being gimmicky in nature. It’s incredibly well-written and insanely adorable.
From the moment feelings start to be expressed, I was all in. These are the feelings I wish Cursed Child had given us. Expressions of intimacy and longing. Discussions of sexual awakenings and sexual expression. Rainbow Rowell, a straight woman from America, somehow writes the blossoming feelings of two British boys with clarity and accuracy.
The biggest of romance lovers will melt at this story and the calmest of readers will at least connect with the human expression depicted on the page. What Rowell does well is express the tiny moments as grand ones. Thoughts of attraction like noticing one’s jeans or a mole on the neck are exemplified with meaning and substance. This sweet and PG story sometimes reads hotter than any adult novel out there.
But possibly one instance where Rowell faltered was exemplifying Simon’s sexuality (slight spoilers here). In honoring his characterization of “not being a thinker,” Rowell settles on Simon assuming that he’s gay because he likes a man. The character never questions whether he’s bisexual and interested in both sexes. Instead, he skips over to gay and only gay.
If Rowell had taken a moment to have Simon consider that he’s still attracted to women just as much as he is attracted to Baz, I feel the story would have been a home run.
Overall, this is a great book. I loved it. I adored it. And, I read it all at a quick pace. And so, I wanted to share it here with you all.
Even better, the story is getting a sequel that’s coming out this September! So if you want a nice page turner to read with a guaranteed continuation, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is the right book for you.
Let me know if you decided to give it a read. And if you’ve read it already, tell me your thoughts down in the comments below and let’s get talking.