Carry On | Rainbow Rowell
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin;
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
“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.”
Simon Snow is a rough sort of fellow with a good heart and a well-placed sense of humor, but also an under-developed skill for magic. He’s an enjoyable character with an intriguing personality that is easy to connect with. My favorite aspect of the book, though, is his relationship with Baz who is perfectly cynical, darkly comedic, charismatic, and basically, the most compelling and likable character in the book (in my honest opinion).
I greatly enjoyed the parts in which Simon and Baz attempt to figure out their relationship to one another and to discover their place in each others’ world. I loved reading from each of their perspectives. The alternating chapters between them bolsters their individual character development as well as their romantic connection to a level that is much more insightful than a single perspective from one narrator would have been.
While I loved the story between Simon and Baz, I feel as if the plot as a whole is a bit messy. The pacing is slow in that the action is sporadic and comes to a climax mostly in the second half of the book, more towards the end. The dangers that threaten Simon and company are downplayed to a noticeable extent, and the true villain is slightly predictable. Also, the rules of magic are somewhat confusing.
Despite it all, this book is one of my favorites. I have chapters I can’t help but reread once in a while and the humor is top-notch. This is a coming-of-age story that focuses a great deal on self-discovery, love, and friendships. Though not perfect, the ending is sweet and hopeful, and overall, Carry On is easily one of my favorite LGBTQ+ reads in YA.
Fangirl | Rainbow Rowell
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin;
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
“Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to…more“
Fangirl is such a sweet and adorable contemporary romance. The plot and setting are a throwback to my college days as a freshman. It was a time to grow and adapt, to meet new people and to discover a bit more of yourself. And that’s just what Cath is challenged to do.
Cath is a bit of a boring character, but she is real and relatable in her struggle to come to terms with change. Her relationship with her sister, Wren, is powerful and moving at its core, but that doesn’t mean that its impervious to conflict. My favorite part about this book, besides the romance, is Cath’s tumultuous relationship with her sister and father. Each individual in Cath’s little family of three suffer from extreme behaviors (heavy drinking, bouts of mania, and isolation/shyness). Once Cath and her sister go to college and experience a new lifestyle apart from one another, their connection is severely tested. I really enjoyed their dysfunctional family dynamic and while it was infuriating to read, it was also hugely touching.
Apart from the family element, the romance was spot on. Levi is an incredibly goofy and lovable character who brought a smile to my face every time he was on the page. Was he perfect? Absolutely not. He made mistakes, but he’s so inherently good and kind that his misgivings were easily forgivable. His relationship with Cath develops slowly as he takes the time to introduce himself to her world of fan fiction and to also bring her out of her shell.
This book is far from fast paced, but it’s entertaining all the same thanks to its magnetic characters, its emphasis on familial relationships, its heartfelt romance, and its focus on individual development. The Simon Snow excerpts were a huge plus, as well. I loved this book (a.k.a. I loved Levi) and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone (so they can read about Levi…)