Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Carry On was freakin’ delightful, you guys!!!

How much did I love this book? So much that I read in twice in one week. When I read Fangirl last year, I was more interested in the ups and downs of Cath’s freshman year and her blossoming relationship with Levi to pay much attention to her OTP Simon and Baz. Admittedly, I was even a little skeptical since Carry On is Rainbow Rowell’s first fantasy novel. Now I need at least 6 more books with Simon, Baz, the delightful Penelope Bunce, and the World of Mages. Give me moooooorreeee!

It’s hard to read Carry On without thinking of Harry Potter. Orphan who discovers he’s a wizard magician? Yes, yes, it’s indeed a trope, but you should read this and not sigh “ugh, it’s Harry Potter.” It is-ish, and it isn’t.

What Rainbow does so well is take all the things about HP that make HP and subvert them. Instead of wizards ignoring modern life in favor of magic, Carry On shows us a world where magic and technology exist harmoniously. These are magicians who use cell phones, laptops, iPads, and the like without any pretense that “magic is better/more useful/etc.” Which, frankly, makes a lot more sense (as far as fantasy novels about people wielding magic can make sense) that looking like a walking anachronism by not partaking in modern life. No wonder the Dursleys thought the Weasleys were so strange.

Subversion is the driving word of this review, because, no seriously, tropes are subverted left and right in this book. Rainbow Rowell brings us vampires who don’t really want to be vampires, girls who don’t want to be the “endgame” of the Chosen One, a Chosen One who really isn’t that great of a Chosen One, two boys who realize they love each other instead of the hate that’s existed between them since 11 years old, and a world where matters of good and evil are not black and white. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, Carry On is a mature version of Harry Potter in that the forces of “evil” are not black and white like Voldemort and his cronies were.

Does this sound tantalizing yet? I hope so.

And yep, it’s a love story. A love story between Simon and Baz. A love story that makes me sqeee and give Cath Avery a pass for fangirling over Simon and Baz’s first incarnations in Fangirl. I’m right on that train with Cath, y’all. Simon & Baz 4ever!

I would be remiss not to mention how much of a badass magician Penelope Bunce is. If we’re keeping up with the Harry Potter comparisons, she’s a sort-of amalgamation of Ron and Hermione but not nearly as prissy as the latter, obnoxious as as the former, and not as white as either. My favorite exchange between Penelope and Simon is when they first meet where he comments that he’d expect her to have a name like Saanvi and she retorts that someone like her can be named anything. She’s a highly competent magician and not afraid to take things on.

Things I also love about Carry On in no particular order and without context (because seriously, read this book)

  1. The name Mordelia
  2. Agatha’s penchant for following the rules and growing frustration with others who don’t
  3. A spell called “Please, please, please! Let me, let me, let me!” (How spells are handled in Carry On is fantastic, and any word nerd or pop culture nerd is going to love it)
  4. Raging against the machine, even if you’re not sure how to properly rage against it
  5. Simon’s penchant for being shirtless (poor Baz)
  6. A daydream proposal involving the stopping of time

I also thoroughly enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s Spotify playlists for Simon and Baz — Baz especially given the amount of Depeche Mode and Duran Duran on that playlist. When I was in Nebraska last week, I listened to these playlists as I drove between Omaha and Lincoln, the same drive Levi and Cath make in Fangirl. AM I META ENOUGH YET?!

Purchase Carry On on Amazon


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