Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Discussion Over Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

This is going to be more of a discussion than a review, hence the title. I just don’t feel like I can properly rate this book right now and I want to re-read it before I give it a final verdict.

Carry On
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Hardcover, 522 pages, St. Martin’s Griffin
Genres: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

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 sets 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, 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.

My Review

Fangirl is my favorite book. I don’t know if I’ve made that clear before, but it is. Fangirl is like my life, but better, because Cath has Levi and Simon Snow and just so many things. So I was really looking forward to Rainbow’s spin-off/fanfiction/whatever you want to classify Carry On as. Alas, I was disappointed. I think this had more to do with me seeing so much hype about it and me believing that Carry On was going to be stupendously fantastic in its moral and story message. Do you see how I led myself to disappointment here? Because I’m starting to see it.

I want to say before I start delving into the whys of my opinions that I do plan on re-reading this book before I give it any type of rating. Additionally, this is more of a discussion than a review. Why am I not just reviewing the book now? Because I want try to go into Carry On without all of the expectations I had and see if maybe I missed something. I’m really hoping I did. Not to say Carry On isn’t an enjoyable read, because it was. I just wanted it to knock my socks off, and I think my toes barely twitched while I was reading.

One of my main problems going into this book were the characters and their development. Since the book starts in Simon’s eighth year of school, we’ve missed a lot. It would be like someone reading the last book of the Harry Potter series and expecting to know who the characters are in all their minute details. And while I felt like I got to know Simon, Baz, Penelope, Agatha, and the rest pretty well, I also felt like I could have gotten to know them so much better. After all, this is something Rainbow’s usually pretty good at; she can make us love her characters from the very depths of our souls. But to me, Simon’s voice wasn’t as strong as it could have been; Baz was eerily silent; and Penelope was kind of “blah.”

I guess I should explain a little bit more. Simon’s personality wasn’t as distinguished as I thought it should be. Yes, he had his quirks, like bad table manners, a love for food, and a knack for making friends, but I never really felt like I “loved” him as a person. And I really wanted to. Now Baz, the character I was most hoping to read about, had a limited amount of page space. I was disappointed. As for Penelope, I know she’s supposed to be a cross between Hermione and Ron, which I should like, but she just came across as kind of annoying. Maybe if I had grown up with her through a longer series, I wouldn’t feel this way? Who knows…?

I also had difficulties with the romantic relationship within the story. I think Simon and Baz have a wonderful dynamic between them and their relationship had so much potential, but that potential didn’t pan out. Three-fourths of the book was simply about gathering research for this big bad and then, all of the sudden, romantic feelings get involved in the last quarter. Despite how much Baz said he crushed on Simon (Simon never mentioned anything about liking Baz), I just didn’t feel it when things actually started happening between the two of them. Rainbow Rowell is normally really good at creating love relationships, so I don’t know what happened here. To me, their romance was kind of like insta-love fanfiction stories I’ve read, where things just start falling into place. And I think that slaughtered me inside. However, like I said, Simon and Baz make for a great pair, they’re both complete opposites, I just didn’t feel like their coming together process made sense.

My next complaint (I hate calling it that, but I can’t think of another word right now.) is about the plot. Rainbow did a FANTASTIC job of creating a unique magic system. I mean, the language use the characters have to do spells is absolutely hilarious and totally absurd! I also think, that despite being similar to Harry Potter, obviously, the Watford world was distinctive in its own way. But the actual plots itself was very predictable. I knew who the bad guy was in the first 80 pages and I knew 95% of the other plot points. I think the only part I didn’t guess was about Baz and his dark, six-week experience. (I don’t want to spoil you, so I’m leaving it at that vague description.)

I was also told that Rainbow does a good job in making fun of “the Chosen One” story trope, so I was fully prepared to laugh at the subtle nuances and inside jokes. I didn’t, though. In fact, the only making fun of that I really saw which had me drawing contrasts was the bad guy portion of the story. And since I had already guessed who the bad guy was and what was going to happen, the contrasts and connections didn’t have a big impact on me.

Oh, and the ending was super fast. Rainbow's books usually end pretty quickly, but as I mentioned before, the gang was doing reconnaissance for a large portion of the book and then WHAM! action starts happening and it's over in less than 30 pages. I wanted more!

While I may sound like I’m completely knocking this book, I need you to know that I did enjoy reading it. (If I had to give it a star rating right now, I’d say it earned somewhere in between 3-4 stars.) I was simply disappointed at how some of the elements played out. I was hoping for too much, I guess.

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