Remember how last week I ranted about books sounding like fanfiction?
Well, if there was one book that was going to sound like some over-done, reworked, trope-ridden fanfic, it was going to be Rainbow Rowell’s new book, Carry On.
So naturally I start reading it.
People who read Rainbow Rowell’s work know that Carry On is based on the fictional fictional series, Simon Snow, the books that Cath fangirls over in Rowell’s novel, Fangirl. Readers of my blog know that I’m not terribly fond of Fangirl. But I never had a problem with the Simon Snow aspect—until Rowell acknowledged Harry Potter in her universe.
Like most readers, I assumed that Simon Snow was the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe. So when Rowell mentioned Harry Potter in Fangirl, I was pretty thrown off. And the parallels are there in Carry On. Ebb is so obviously a younger, female Aberforth. Watford is Hogwarts, the Wavering Wood is the Forbidden Forest, Agatha is Cho Chang, Penny is Hermione, the Mage is Dumbledore, the Humdrum is Voldemort. And the whole thing screams Drarry fanfiction.
And yet…I’m okay with it.
I’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe it’s because Rowell completely skips years one through seven, thrusting the readers straight into the action. There’s no room to pick at the parallels, because there’s no time. Within the first hundred pages, Rowell paints the picture and history of a world so much and so little like Harry Potter that I can accept it as it’s own magical world/system/school and move on with the actual plot. (The actual magic system in Carry On deserves it’s own post because it is brilliant.)
And I have to say, I almost prefer it this way. With the trope-ish set up out of the way, I’m taken straight to the twist in the story that sets it apart from other Chosen One stories. The key twist is Rowell’s charming romance plot and her skill with character development.
Because Simon Snow doesn’t actually exist, there’s no source material to compare it to, and even if you were trying to draw parallels between Simon’s character and Harry’s, or Baz and Draco, I think you’ll be fairly disappointed. Drarry may have been a spark of muse, but that’s definitely not what is going on here.
The “fanfic” aspect may actually be in favour of Carry On. Rowell doesn’t have to take everything seriously, and this works to the book’s advantage. It reminds me of the tone in Percy Jackson. Rowell can have the characters make up spells based on Call Me Maybe, and yet still have a serious discussion on the magic of words. She can talk about merwolves in a moat (which is, let’s be honest, is sort of silly), but also talk about other magical creatures like vampires, spirits, and pixies without sounding fantastical.
This might replace Attachments as my favourite Rainbow Rowell book because it has all of the romcom of Rowell’s previous books…with the bonus of magic.
And if it was fanfiction? Well, it’s better published fanfiction than 50 Shades, I can tell you that.