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Review of Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow

rowell_carry onCarry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
by Rainbow Rowell
High School   St. Martin’s Griffin   522 pp.
10/15   978-1-250-04955-1   $19.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4668-5054-5   $9.99

In Fangirl (rev. 11/13), protagonist Cath wrote fanfiction for the fictitious “Simon Snow” fantasy series. Now Rowell has written a novel set in Simon Snow’s universe and using many conventions of fanfiction, most notably “slash” (in this case non-graphic), usually defined as a wish-fulfilling relationship between two characters of the same sex who, in the original work, are not a romantic couple. Simon, the most powerful mage in centuries, uncovers secrets during his final year at Watford School of Magicks that call into question his long-held beliefs about sharp lines between good and evil. He also begins to realize that his obsession with his probably-a-vampire roommate Baz may not be purely antagonistic. The novel is longer than it needs to be — just kiss already, Simon and Baz — and the many alternating narrators are a little dense when it comes to solving several related mysteries. But there’s plenty to enjoy along the way, including clever names for spells (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” makes oddities like dragon parts on a human unnoticeable) and plenty of wit. Reading Fangirl first isn’t strictly necessary — the brief author’s note covers the basics — and the metatextual concept is somewhere on the spectrum between confusing and fascinating, depending on one’s perspective. A working knowledge of the Harry Potter books and other popular fandoms isn’t absolutely essential either, but it makes this send-up a lot more fun.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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