PopLurker Reviews: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

By T.L. McNamee


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Carry on, you wayward sons. No, Supernatural fandom—not you. Though, if you’re interested in finally seeing some damaged boys fall in love, then this book is gold.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is the best book I’ve read in years—also kind of the worst. It’s hard to talk about this book without helpless squeaks, or reaching a range only dogs can hear, but the story Rowell tells is a masterpiece (even if her set dressing is hilariously trite). Carry On is a story of two wizard boys attending a boarding school for magic in the UK. Sound familiar?

Rowell first came up with the suspiciously Harry Potter-esque world for Carry On in another of her books called Fangirl. In it, she follows a college student who writes a popular fanfiction about two wizards attending a magic school where Simon is the “chosen one” and Bas seems to thwart him at every turn. The fanfiction has the two wizards falling in love, creating an ever so popular slash fic that I’m sure has nothing to do with Harry and Malfoy.

After Rowell finished Fangirl, she felt compelled to finish the story of Simon and Bas in her own way. What she created in Carry On is literally a canonized fanfiction. It’s a book “inspired by a fictional fanfiction of a fictional series” from her own work. I mean, who does that? (And why didn’t I think of it first?)

Oh, but just wait for it. The world of Carry On is brilliantly absurd. Magic is cast by the power of words; the more common the phrase, the more powerful the spell. This book is riddled with clichés and it works. The plot of magical bad-guy wants to kill magical good-guy barely exists, and instead the story focuses on the rising tension between Simon and Bas. When that tension breaks I start reaching octaves I didn’t know existed.

This book has plot holes, almost no driving risk, weirdly forced conflict, a backstory narrating ghost, and a main character whose primary trait is he doesn’t think. This book should be a disaster, it should flop and fail, but instead I’m already itching for a reread.

Rowell does one thing, and she does it so well she deserves a medal. She understands love. Not the gushy, infatuation, toxic adoration seen in a lot of romance novels, but true, messy, conflicting character love that twists my heart into a star. This book is a romance first, and holy hell does it deliver.

At one point, (and I should preface this by saying I’m a woman married to a man) I was so deep into the character that I thought, “Wow. I wonder what it’s like to be attracted to a guy? … … WAIT, wtf brain!”

Rowell writes her character interactions, dialogue, and story so well that now these characters are embedded in me. I fear I’ll never recover, then again, I don’t think I want to.

Go read it. Seriously.


T.L. McNamee is a paranormal romance writer with an all-encompassing love for geek life. You can visit her website T.L. McNamee for more of her work. She also has a Twitter.

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