Thursday, October 20, 2016

#49 [2016/CBR8] "Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell

If someone had told me to read some Harry Potter fan fiction, I would have politely declined. It goes to show how much I like Rainbow Rowell that as soon as I learned of Carry On (2015), I put it on my to-read list. I will give anything by Rainbow Rowell a chance.

I've never heard of Rowell specifically stating that Carry On is based on Harry Potter, but the similarities are undeniable. Simon Snow is an orphan who grew up in various group homes and foster homes throughout England. It also turns out that he is the most powerful wizard of his time. He discovers this at the age of eleven or twelve when he is invited to go to the exclusive wizarding school. At school he becomes best friends with Penelope, and they have many dangerous adventures together. Simon's nemesis is Basilton or Baz (Draco). Unfortunately for both of them, they were chosen to be roommates and must suffer the other's company their entire tenure at school.

The book begins as Simon travels to school for his last year. The wizarding world is not in a good place. Holes--places that are void of any magic--are appearing throughout England and slowly growing. The mage (the headmaster as well as the leader of the wizarding world) is fighting with the older wizarding families and war is about to break out. Finally, there is an insidious "bad guy" who people call the humdrum that constantly attacks Simon.

At first I had a hard time with this book. I'd only recently read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, another Harry Potter book that didn't quite feel like the originals. Now I was reading another book that felt like Harry Potter, but there were enough significant differences in the worlds, that you can't merge the worlds. I kept catching myself giving Simon Harry's backstory. I also really prefer original characters and stories, especially when written by a different author.

If you read Fangirl, then it shouldn't be a surprise that there is a serious love/hate relationship going on between Simon and Baz. And once Baz got back into the picture and Baz, Simon, and Penelope started working together, the book picked up dramatically.

By the time I'd finished, I'd bought into Rowell's new creation of Harry Potter and his world. In some ways, I almost prefer it. I really liked Rowell's description of Simon's magical powers, and how they affected him and others around him. In addition, J.K. Rowling likes to kill all my favorite characters and then tie everything up into a nice little bow. Rowell definitely went in a different direction. In the end, I don't really understand Rowell's decision to tread upon such familiar ground, but once I got into it, her book was easy to read and made me think.

"(Just when you think you're having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.)" (197)

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