Review: Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl & Carry On

Somewhere last year, I read Eleanor & Park. Even though it felt a little too young for me at times, I enjoyed reading it. It was gripping enough to have me reading it in one sitting (that doesn’t mean I loved it – I do that quite a lot). I didn’t enjoy it enough to pick up Rowell’s other book straight away though, but when I started my bookstagram account, people kept recommending Attachments, and so I read it. It was a totally different genre, and Rowell made me laugh out loud pretty often. After reading that, I bought Carry On. But I quickly found out it was linked to Fangirl, so I decided to read that first. And I’m glad I did.

img_20170110_135853Fangirl

First of all, this is generally not my genre. Ya contemporary is not my thing, and neither are chicklits. But I felt like reading something light, and I liked Attachments and also enjoyed Eleanor & Park, so I picked up this one. And loved it! Rainbow Rowell is definitely the exception to the rule, and this is my favorite so far. The characters were so real I feel like I know them, and Cath, the main character, is especially relatable. But more than that, I’m genuinely impressed by Rowell’s writing. It’s not often that I come across a well-written book in this genre, and she kept playing with genres like it was nothing, making it feel like it would be so easy to write. I felt the passion for writing dripping of the pages, kind of making me want to start writing myself. It felt like an homage to fandom, and the Harry Potter fandom in particular – but the Simon and Baz story was certainly not a simple HP rip-off, and it made me really curious about Carry On. I loved the short fragments at the start of each chapter, and how they were always somehow related to the chapter to come. This book was a light read, but there was still quite a lot to it. Can this please be a movie?

Carry On

As you can probably make out in my review of Fangirl, my expectations of Carry On were through the roof. So I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed. Here’s why:

What did I just read? I seriously don’t understand the point of this book. Simon and Baz were charming enough, but that’s not enough for a 500 page novel. It’s really not. As much as I loved Fangirl, I couldn’t get myself to love this. I wonder what I would’ve made of this book if I wouldn’t have read Fangirl first, and it feels essential to do so, because the whole idea of the book within a book is interesting enough. I liked recognizing stuff from Caths (the main character from Fangirl) life in the book for example, like Baz’s widows peak, or the specific type of coffee he makes at the end of the book. Carry On reads like fanfiction, just like it was meant to be. The confusing part however, is lacking the context of the ‘real’ fandom. For example, what makes Harry Potter fanfiction so enjoyable, is knowing and loving the real canon. The genre is pretty unclear too, because it doesn’t feel like fantasy at all. At best, it feels like a parody on fantasy, except that it’s not all that funny or the clou was lost on me. Neither was this book suspenseful at any point, because the plot felt secondary the whole time, even though it was a pretty big one. The whole Simon/Baz love story seemed to be the main point, only it didn’t really start until halfway through part 3. And even more distracting were all the other POVs, which were completely unnecessary. All in all, this book definitely had potential, but it didn’t work in its chosen form.

Conclusion

I’m not sure if Carry On would have been as disappointing had I not read Fangirl first. Of course my expectations were high because I liked Fangirl that much, and I’d also already grown fond of Simon and Baz through Caths fanfic. On the other hand, the book would have probably made even less sense to me without the context that was provided in Fangirl. Carry On might just have been a bit too ambitious a project… I will read Landline soon though, and I’m looking forward to whatever Rainbow Rowell will write next! Do you like her books?

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8 thoughts on “Review: Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl & Carry On

  1. I have yet to read Carry On, but I can definitely see where it wouldn’t quite be as awesome as it was to Cath. Fangirl was a definite win for me, and just for the sake of completion, I will probably listen to Carry On, but I’ll borrow it from the library so that, since I’ve been warned twice now it isn’t all that amazing, I won’t feel as much guilt for reading anyway, since I won’t have spent money just time.

    Cath was so like me in high school that at times I had to pause the book and try not to cringe and feel embarrassed. Then I remembered that there’s a reason that Rowell wrote this character so well- and I think partially it’s because she identifies with Cath’s social anxiety, coupled with the desire to seem normal. More people have that than will admit so I just try to keep that in mind.

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    1. That sounds like the best way to read Carry On! Although I can’t say I regret my cover buy… Oh yes, I think Rowell herself was definitely a lot like Cath – I believe she even said that in the interview at the end of Fangirl! That’s probably why she could make Cath feel so real…

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  2. I am so sorry to hear that you didn’t like Carry On! I really enjoyed it, but I can see that maybe it isn’t for everyone. I have t agree with you on Fangirl though it is so amazing and the characters are really well written. I have yet to read Eleanor & Park, but it is on the TBR list!

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