Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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The synopsis of Carry On sums it up: ‘It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.’   Further simplified, it would look something like this: monster – kissing – monster – kissing – kissing – monster – kissing.

Rainbow Rowell, acclaimed for her incredible success in the YA genre with Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, offers in her fifth novel – wait for it – *fluff*. The book is not original by any yardstick. The tag line on the cover that reads ‘Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen,’ is not very subtle either. It is a fictional fanfic of a character who is fictional in the first place.

Fanception jokes aside, the story revolves around Simon Snow, who accepts his role as the designated saviour of a crumbling ‘magickal’ generation. But, he is completely unable to control his magick. In-between the magicking and the politicking by traditionalist families, his world is being shred apart by a vaguely dangerous sounding force called the ‘Insidious Humdrum’. Amid the copious servings of nemesis fixation, a deeply but unnecessarily loyal best friend and a somewhat confused girlfriend, the magick in the story is diluted.

As the story advances, you realise it is more canon than fanfic. It rides on the premises set up by better known works such as Harry Potter, Twilight and the Lord of the Rings – ones we are familiar with and have come to love.

Part One drags on incessantly and be prepared to remain clueless about it for a while. If you have read Fangirl then this book becomes a richer experience. But the story is set up to stand on its own as well, and the characters grow mostly through the course of the story. In particular, Baz, the protagonist’s nemesis, definitely quickens pace and heartbeat.

For a work so meta that it spins its genre on its head, the plot could have been better. It may not be the best representation of the LGBT+ community, but it is a representation and for a YA book it could have done worse.

The book lodges itself a bit uncomfortably between meta, pretentious and somewhat post-modernist narratives. But like most fanfic, if you are reading it just to see the two characters go at each other, it is a lot of fun. It shuttles between making borderline stereotypical references and subtle comments on orientation, class and ethnicity.

The synopsis does not lie. There is so much kissing, it will definitely floor your inner fangirl and make you fall in love with their love.

Words by Navya Hebbar

Jess is your Deputy Editor

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