by Em Catanzaro
One of my favorite authors wrote a book based on a fictional book series in one of her own novels, as confusing as that sounds. And, if you’re like me, you love a good excuse to curl up with one of your favorite authors and a cup of tea (because that’s what we do; we read).
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Chosen One stories: a young person is prophesied to take down the bad guys and save the world from complete destruction.
Some familiars: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson.
Carry On is what author Rainbow Rowell refers to as a “Chosen One” story. And our Chosen One is Simon Snow, an eighteen-year-old Mage from the Normal world of the UK. He’s the Mage’s Heir. The Chosen One. He’s got a frickin’ sword, for god’s sake.
Carry On is a love story, a ghost story, a family story, and a story of history. All together to be one pretty damn fantastic novel.
And if you’re looking for an intro to queer YA fiction, you’ve found it.
The greatest thing about this novel is that, while two of the main characters are queer and fall in love, it’s not solely about love. This novel helps people to see that, yes, LGBTQ+ people can find love, and yes, they can have a happy ending.
(Spoiler: you can find Simon, Baz, Penny, and Agatha in the Rowell’s 2015 novel, Fangirl, where Cather Avery writes popular fanfiction about the wildly famous Gemma T. Leslie “Simon Snow” book series.)
I’ve found the Chosen One schtick to be overdone and overused. Too many authors think they can redo this idea again and again, all for the same results.
Rowell’s book is different.
Simon has been conditioned from day one that he’s supposed to die for his cause. He’s the one that’s to be put up for sacrifice and not have any say in it. Simon genuinely believes he shouldn’t think because he’s not “supposed” to. His magic is all out of whack, and no one but his best friend knows how to talk to him because he’s so very powerful. It sucks because he’s just a kid. He’s got his whole life ahead of him.
I could equate this book to so many other great queer YA fiction: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; FreakBoy. I could go on. And queer YA fiction is great because it is a gateway for teenagers (and some adults!) to the nonfiction and fiction that discusses the meat of issues surrounding equality and gender issues.
Even if queer fiction isn’t your cup of tea, I’d recommend this novel. Not because it involves two people falling in love or because it’s set in a modern era (and heaven knows we could use more modern fictional role models). I’d recommend this novel because it is beautifully written with a beautiful story to tell.
If there’s anything I learned from Carry On, it’s that the old-age Chosen One story can be told again, beautifully, with queer and quirky characters that make you want to cry, screech with joy, and smile all at once.
So my final verdict on Carry On?
There’s absolutely something to see here.