Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

"What you are is a fucking tragedy, Simon Snow. You literally couldn't be a bigger mess." He tries to kiss me, but I pull back - "And you like that?" "I love it." He says. "Why?" "Because we match." - Simon & Baz, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

As promised, this week I'll be recommending a second enchanting helping of Rainbow Rowell. Last week, I recommended Fangirl. That story briefly introduced us to the character of Simon Snow. We met Cath and her twin sister Wren. Cath is obsessed with the Simon Snow series and writes her own fan-fiction. Fangirl was Cath & Wren's story, this is Simon's. Carry On gives us a front row seat at the Watford School of Magicks, and to the rise and fall of Simon Snow.

Simon Snow is our lead protagonist. He is the Chosen One, a reluctant mage who cannot escape his destiny. It's his responsibility to destroy the insidious Humdrum. There’s just one problem, he’s not very good. When he isn’t having trouble getting his wand to work, he's wreaking havoc with his disastrous spellcasting. Meanwhile, the Humdrum threatens to destroy all magic. It's creating dead spots all over England. In these spots, magic is dead and cannot be used by any magical creature. Simon needs to clean his act up... and quick. This would be a lot easier if his mentor was around and he hadn’t just broke up with his girlfriend. Also, with so much going on, why is his mind preoccupied with his roommate and nemesis, Baz?

Tyrannus Basilton “Baz”: the roommate, the vampire, the nemesis and eventually…the boyfriend. When Baz was just five years old, the school was attacked by vampires. During this attack his mother was killed and he was turned. According to Baz, Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. In his first year at Watford, he and Simon are paired as roomies. He quickly takes a disliking to Simon and proclaims himself his nemesis. Although, it's clear the teen vampire protests too much. It isn’t long until Baz realises that he's in love with Simon Snow. When the ghost of Baz’s mother begins appearing to Simon, the pair team up to take down the evil Humdrum and solve the mystery surrounding her death.

On their epic quest, we're joined by Agatha Wellbelove and Penelope Bunce. Agatha is Simon Snow's ex-girlfriend. They broke up after an argument surrounding an incident where she was spotted holding hands with Baz. Simon is convinced that she's in love with the suave vampire. But what upsets him more, the notion of Agatha liking Baz or Baz liking Agatha? Agatha is filled with self-doubt, she’s not sure this life of mages and magic is for her. Everything has gotten so dangerous and complicated. She craves normality. Penny is Simon's best friend. To Baz’s dismay, they are always together. She is very intelligent and perhaps a little nosey. Her curiosity often leads to trouble. But her thirst for knowledge simply has to be quenched.

This novel was very much Rowell’s take on a Harry Potter-esque type story. For me, the comparison is unavoidable, but also part of the fun. Rowell turns this fantasy genre on its head. She brings a gritty truth that’s rarely found in this type of story. The book doesn’t shy away from its powerful themes of identity, class and sexuality. There are too few heroic, gay protagonists out there. I would love to see Carry On hit the silver screens. I hope the rumours of a sequel are true. The author has stated that she would love to return to these characters. So, fingers crossed.

The relationship between Baz and Simon unfolded beautifully. These characters couldn’t have been grounded any deeper in fantasy, yet their relationships felt so real. This story may be a homage or parody of others like it, but it is compellingly original. It’s gripping, sexy, quirky and packed with clever metaphors. It leaves a long lasting impression. Rowell’s characters resonate with me in a way that few do. When you read as much as I do, characters can kinda begin to blur sometimes. But Rowell’s always stand miles apart.

That's why I am recommending yet another Rowell title next week. I’ve done two in a row, may as well make it a triple feature. Don’t worry, I have intentionally saved the very best for last. Tune in next week, when I’ll be recommending Eleanor & Park. That's all for this week bibliophiles. Until next time, may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry.

"I wind my finger in his hair. It's thicker than mine, and curlier, and it shines golden in the firelight. There's a mole on his cheek that I've wanted to kiss since I was 12. So I do." Baz, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell