Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is absolutely one of my favourite books of all time. It’s a sweet gay romance combined with magic and adventure, so it already ticks all of my reading boxes; but more than that, I love how the book was conceived and came to be.
In 2013 Rowell published Fangirl, a charming and engaging novel about Cath, whose life revolves around fandom. Cath and her sister Wren have spent years crafting fan fiction together, to the point where they have thousands of devoted online readers and fans of their own. Their fic Carry On, Simon, is a reimagining of the super-popular Simon Snow books – which in Fangirl, are pretty obviously stand-ins for the Harry Potter series.
In Fangirl, Rowell deftly weaves snippets of Carry On, Simon into the story of Cath and her coming-of-age as she enters college and grapples with whether her writing talent is legitimate if it’s based on someone else’s creation. Fangirl is also great, but honestly, the bits of Harry Potter/Simon Snow fanfic are one of the best parts of the novel. So you can imagine how delighted I was when, in 2015, Rowell published Carry On!
Carry On is a full novel based on the Harry Potter fanfic that Rowell wrote in order to prepare herself for writing in Cath’s voice. It’s still very apparently Harry Potter-esque – the main characters are all students at a school for wizards in the English countryside – but with a twist that makes it stand alone: imagine if bitter rivals Harry and Draco (Simon and Baz, here) were roommates, and also, harbouring secret crushes on each other?
I KNOW, RIGHT!?
Rowell managed to hit upon the one thing crucially missing from the Potter-verse: gay teen romance. And delivers it sweetly, smartly, gently, and engagingly, woven into an overall adventure full of magic and dragons and spells and mortal danger. There’s nothing not to like about this book!
I am beyond thrilled that she’s writing a sequel. I desperately want this book to become a long, rich, ongoing saga! I highly recommend Carry On, it’s definitely one of my top LGBTQ YA reads of all time, and it’s a go-to comfort re-read for me. I’ll be giving it to our queer kid to read and will update with her review!