Carry On: The Fall and Fall of Simon Snow
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Title: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Difficulty: Easy (Young Adult)
Always spoiler free
I came across Simon Snow through bookstagram and immediately decided to add it to my list of August reads based on the book art for the second book ‘Wayward Son’. I had never heard of the author or story, so this was a completely spontaneous decision!
When I started Carry On, I immediately thought that I had started in the middle of a series. The book acts as if you are aware of (at least) six years of backstory. I was so convinced that I was in middle of a series that I put the book down and googled it! Technically Simon’s story exists within another of Rowell’s novels (Fangirl) where it is a ‘story within a story’. However, as Wikipedia so helpfully points out, Rowell has said that Carry On exists as a stand alone novel. I’ve not read Fangirl so I can’t comment to these points, but I do know that Carry On was confusing to read.
I’ve started series in the middle before so am used to grappling with assumed knowledge, although it was a very odd sensation for a standalone novel. Eventually you get with the plot and settle down, but it is slightly disconcerting as you try and work everything out. Rowell is constantly referring to anecdotes that happened years early, with little detail. Some are expanded on later, but you mostly just have to accept that you won’t understand half of what the characters are referring to, and then be pleasantly surprised when you get more context later. By the end of novel, I did feel that I knew enough about the characters and their motivation, but to be honest this isn’t my favourite introduction to new characters!
There is a very clear comparison that can be made between this novel and Harry Potter (potentially this was intentional in Fangirl before Rowell decided she would make a standalone novel?). I know you can make a case that it’s easy to make parallels between any fantasy written after Harry Potter which includes a school of magic and a male MC, but I was getting serious HP vibes when reading this book. It wasn’t until the second half of the story where a few neat twists and turns took me away from making this comparison.
The first half of the story bored me. There’s no action and I kept getting wildly confused with how much time had passed (days, weeks or months?). It’s only when a character called Baz turns up and the narrative switched to him (the narrative switches between characters throughout the book) that I settled down and began to enjoy the novel. The change in perspective also made me understand Simon more, but overall, I am a Baz fan! I enjoyed the switching narrative, although I think that it could have been restricted to Baz and Simon only. As a character Agatha was a non-starter for me and could have easily been removed (or included as a few lines) as she doesn’t add much as a plot device.
I found the romantic relationship between two characters very sweet (emphasis on when the relationship develops) and I can see lots of people getting excited about it. I won’t say much more about it, but it does flit across a love/hate line and an assumption of sexuality that could become problematic.
This book is for young adults, but I don’t have a problem with being an adult reading a book for young adults. It brings a different perspective to things and I acknowledge that I read and receive this book in a very different way then I would have as a young adult (or a young adult would now). It’s important to note that I am not the intended audience for this novel. Overall, I can see the appeal of this book, but for me it was a very uneven read and dragged in the first half. I’m not sure I will bother with the second in the series.
Well Red Reviews
Would I recommend this book? If you enjoy this sort of book, yes
“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.”
“I’d cross every line for him.
I’m in love with him.
And he likes this better than fighting.”