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Archived (2016) > Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - Best YA Nominee (2016)

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message 1: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey Rey | 6 comments The readalong for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell will start March 1st, but you are welcome to read Carry On and discuss the book here at any time!

I read Carry On when it was first released and I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed how it combined some of my favorite fantasy elements with my favorite contemporary elements in one excellent novel!

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.


Will you be reading Carry On for the first time during this readalong? If you've already read it, what did you think and who was your favorite character?

Please remember to use spoiler tags for any potential Carry On spoilers. Thank you!


message 2: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (httpswwwgoodreadscomnovelsandnon) | 8 comments I'm halfway through the audiobook right now! Excited to discuss with everyone! :)


message 3: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
The audiobook is how I read it. The narration was really pretty great on it.


message 4: by Soňa (new)

Soňa | 2 comments I also read it when it first came out and I adored it! My favorite character is def Baz, he's fabulous


message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul (paul_sff) | 70 comments Soňa wrote: "I also read it when it first came out and I adored it! My favorite character is def Baz, he's fabulous "

Yah, I'm of the opinion that the main character of this story is not Simon but Baz. Baz is the most interesting character and the one with depth.


message 6: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea (coutlaw) | 22 comments Ugh, this book was just so much of everything I wanted when I read it a few months ago! From the diversity of characters to the fact that (view spoiler) I really, really enjoyed Rowell's first foray into the fantasy world. Also, bonus points for it being a standalone!


message 7: by Wil (new)

Wil  | 6 comments I am going to be reading roughly 70 pages a day in hopes I will finish it this week! I can't wait to read this since I know it is so many people's favorite rainbow Rowell book... I'll update more this afternoon when I am done with my chunk for today.


message 8: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8 comments I started this morning!


message 9: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8 comments Simon is supposed to be gay correct?


message 10: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
Chelsea wrote: "Ugh, this book was just so much of everything I wanted when I read it a few months ago! From the diversity of characters to the fact that [spoilers removed] I really, really enjoyed Rowell's first ..."
This cracked me up, because I thought (view spoiler) The whole story reads a bit like fanfic, in a totally good way (says the woman who still reads fanfic).


message 11: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
Heather, (view spoiler)


message 12: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8 comments Brianne wrote: "Heather, [spoilers removed]"

Thank you! I was confused because (view spoiler)


message 13: by Kaitlin (new)

Kaitlin (kool_kat_kitty) | 110 comments Mod
I loved this, I have never been a big fanfic reader and yet this plays off of the ideas of fanfic so well and comes together in a way that I just adored it! I will certainly be looking forward to all the discussions here and also I can't wait to see what other books she brings out with fantasy vibes after the success of this!!


message 14: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
Agreed. I like how self-aware the story is. She's very conscious of the tone she wants and the typical tropes and clichés. It's a bit self-indulgent and self-depreciating at the same time, all while being so enjoyable and not over the top.


message 15: by Paul (last edited Mar 01, 2016 04:25PM) (new)

Paul (paul_sff) | 70 comments Yah, the story is so self-aware, and I think that is why I liked it at first. I was very iffy about this book when I started it but as soon as Baz comes on the scene it is fantastic. I loved the idea that Simon's biggest rival is actually in love with him.

I definitely think that Rowell's focus on the characters was well decided but at the same time other parts of the book suffered because of that. I really wanted to learn more about this school and the magic. However, if I had to choose between more world building and less characterization, I'd stay with the characterization and less world building.


message 16: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea (coutlaw) | 22 comments So some of the judges have been having a really interesting conversation about whether or not a character's sexuality should be considered a spoiler? It's an interesting question in this book because the sexuality of the characters in any book can have bearing on the relationships they may end up in, which could potentially be a spoiler...so we thought we'd bring the question to the community to see what you all think? So, sexual orientation - spoiler or non-spoiler?


message 17: by Nicole (last edited Mar 01, 2016 08:37PM) (new)

Nicole (nicolepo) | 107 comments Chelsea wrote: "So some of the judges have been having a really interesting conversation about whether or not a character's sexuality should be considered a spoiler? It's an interesting question in this book becau..."

I don't think that sexuality is a spoiler, but I do think saying the end result of a love triangle is a spoiler. (Although, I hear that in the case of this book, if you read Fangirl you already know the end or suspect the end result, so maybe in this book, it won't be for everyone.)

I really liked Carry On way more than I was expecting to. I enjoyed the way Rainbow Rowell twisted fantasy troupes and played with our expectations. I thought it was very effective. Getting to see from the points of view of non-chosen one characters was also interesting as it allowed the side characters and their motivations to develop a lot more than they do in most chosen one stories.


message 18: by Paul (last edited Mar 01, 2016 08:59PM) (new)

Paul (paul_sff) | 70 comments Chelsea wrote: "So some of the judges have been having a really interesting conversation about whether or not a character's sexuality should be considered a spoiler? It's an interesting question in this book becau..."

I don't think it is a spoiler for the following reasons:
1) If it was meant to be a major spoiler, the coming together of their relationship would happen much later in the book, with more of a surprise. Everyone can see what is going to happen from a mile away.
2) As soon as Baz shows up at school we learn he is gay. We learn he is in love with Simon relatively early in the book. It is obvious that Simon is obsessed with Baz even before Baz returns to school. When we find out Baz is gay, it is obvious what will happen, and Simon's obsession makes sense.
3) From the beginning of the novel Rowell is poking fun of YA fantasy books. The "love triangle" is obviously a joke and the reader knows not to take it seriously. The entire beginning of the book is extremely satirical but as soon as we meet Baz and we find out his sexuality, the entire tone of the book changes.
4) The cover basically has two guys making out on it.
5) A heterosexual book about arch rivals falling in love would be explicit in what the book is about right away on the blurb. There would be words like "star-crossed lovers" or "forbidden love" or "when these two arch enemies fall in love..." For there not to be a blurb about the homosexual relationship within the book is disappointing because it would be if Baz or Simon were a girl. I can understand why Rowell did it, for more wow factor, but I think the responsibility is then put on the reader to tell other readers of the same sex relationship within the book.
6) If a reader is going to tell another reader what the book is about, they are going to talk about the relationship right away.
7) If the character's sexuality is openly discussed, more gay readers might find it something they want to read.

For it:
It just slightly makes the book a little better going into it completely blind and not knowing their relationship.


message 19: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nicolepo) | 107 comments Paul wrote: "For it:
It just slightly makes the book a little better going into it completely blind and not knowing their relationship."


I mean... you throw that in there like it's a minor thing, but that's literally the reason why people care about spoilers.


message 20: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
This is interesting. I think that Baz being gay isn't a spoiler since from his introduction he's very quickly identified as such. Other characters, for whom understanding their own sexuality may be a larger process and a motivator for certain plot points makes me a bit more hesitant. As well as the surprise factor being big for some characters. I think if you're familiar with fanfic and the ways that it reinterprets some characters you wouldn't be surprised at some characters' sexuality, but for others, it would be and the surprise may be pivotal to the experience. Interesting.


message 21: by Paul (new)

Paul (paul_sff) | 70 comments Reply to Nicole, since there is no reply button on the phone app:

I get what you are saying and would agree with you if the book actually handled it as such. I feel that if Rowell wanted it to be a huge reveal it would have came later in the book and it would not have been overly obvious what was happening.

I also still think there is a double standard and believe that if this was any other book with a heterosexual relationship that there would be no conversation about it being a spoiler and their relationship would be talked about openly. Because of that, I think that not discussing the relationship between Simon and Baz is saying that sexuality is a spoiler.


message 22: by Nicole (last edited Mar 03, 2016 08:08PM) (new)

Nicole (nicolepo) | 107 comments Paul wrote: "Reply to Nicole, since there is no reply button on the phone app:

I get what you are saying and would agree with you if the book actually handled it as such. I feel that if Rowell wanted it to be ..."


I think perhaps we're being too narrow in our discussion here, and that the more relevant/important questions might be: Does this book portray LGBTQ characters/relationships well? And what is the state of LGBTQ characters/relationships overall in YA and/or science fiction and fantasy?

I am firmly in the camp that the entire plot of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince could have been solved in under 100 pages if Harry and Draco had just gotten over themselves and made out already, but I also knew that JK Rowling was never going to write that story. Despite the fact that there are enough fans who agree with me that there are probably thousands of pages of Draco-Harry fanfiction. The closest we get to a gay main character is Dumbledore, who exhibits basically no signs of his sexuality within the books.

Fast forward to now, and while I think the representation of LGBTQ characters has increased and improved, there's still a lot of room for growth. For example, another nominee, Nimona, has two main protagonists who are gay according to the author and about half of the people who read the story, but it's still ambiguous within the context of the comic.

This book is the only recent young adult fantasy I can think of that has a gay main character, who out right says he's gay, and it's blatantly satirical of genre troupes. Is the only way main characters in young adult fantasy can be LGBTQ if it's in a humor story? If this was the next Harry Potter or Hungry Games, would it still be published or be as successful if the main romance was LGBTQ based? Personally, I think the answer to first question is no, and I would hope the answer to the second question would be yes, but I'm honestly not sure. To my knowledge, nothing like that is currently being published, is that because no one has written it yet, or are books with non-hetero romances just not as popular?

Edit: Also, I realize I may have totally derailed the conversation about this book. If you all would prefer to discuss the book, we can focus on that instead.


Jane (yesmissjane) (yesmissjane) | 40 comments I just finished reading this tonight, and although I can completely see what other people have enjoyed in the book (it is really well paced, engaging characters, etc) it has left me feeling a bit torn. One part of it is what I felt as heavy handedness of the whole romance sub-plot (or could you really call it a sub-plot? It seemed to me that most of the rest of the plot was functionally only sub-plot to the romance). Arguably the same could be said about Illuminae, the other book on the YA short list that I've read, but actually I think I felt the 'fate of the world hanging by a thread' much more vividly there than here, where everything outside of what Baz and Simon were actually feeling for each other felt so knowingly meta and contrived, (while also extremely clever.) I'm not a big fan of feeling emotionally manipulated by romance/erotica writing, and Rowell was certainly walking a fine line in places: I think the first person narratives, especially when describing two characters making out are clearly written to give the reader 'feels': and that is something I'm a bit uncomfortable with. This is in part why I don't tend to read YA, they're just a bit Mills & Boony on the whole, and that's not what I'm looking for in a book. But I digress.

My biggest concern is something which occurred to me while reading the first part where Baz is absent, yet he is clearly (from what I had heard before reading the book, and from signs there to be gleaned from that was and wasn't said about him in his absence) going to arrive and be the second romantic lead. Once Baz appears, I was thinking about it less, because I was caught up in what was going on between them, but I don't think that makes it any less valid a criticism. It's all the stuff about the violent history that Simon and Baz have between them. I really wonder how healthy it is to eroticise this kind of physically confrontational relationship. (And I honestly don't think it is reading too much into the book to say that this is what is happening. The boys hated each others guts, had literally tried to kill each other numerous times. And the way it is all retold it is hot as all get out.) One of the most poisonous things that women are often brought up to think about men is that their mistreatment at male hands is a (hidden) sign of affection. And this is totally what this story is saying about Baz: he was in love with Simon and that is WHY he was being violent towards him. My understanding is that domestic abuse is if anything even more prevalent within the gay community than general society, so it seems that this is an even more pointed criticism of a queer teen romance story.

I don't really know how to integrate these concerns with my other thoughts about the book. Which clearly was clever, accomplished and well written. But, anyhow, this is some of what I've been thinking. (Oh, and I'm never going to be able to look at Dumbledore the same way, because clearly the guy was a egomaniacal dick.)


message 24: by Brianne (new)

Brianne Reeves (bree_reeves) | 19 comments Mod
I think this is a fantastic conversation!

Nicole: I doubt that HP would have been published if Harry were LGBTQ. Lots of authors (ones who are really worth reading) have talked about publishers telling them that their books were unmarketable or that they weren't a specialized publisher when their books featured LGBTQ characters in similar roles. Interesting to think that YA may be a starting point, but I'd argue because (1) Rowell is established, and (2) the overtone of the book is more humorous that publishers were more open to it.

Jane: I like the point about the abuse being ok. It's something I didn't really think about while reading too much, so I appreciate you bringing it up. It is pretty odd. While it fits in with the enemy/love interest idea, there were other ways to accomplish that than casting spells and hitting one another.

Also, yes, Dumbledore is pretty crazy totalitarian when you think about it. Maybe off his rocker in a bad way.


message 25: by Paul (new)

Paul (paul_sff) | 70 comments Jane (yesmissjane) wrote: "I just finished reading this tonight, and although I can completely see what other people have enjoyed in the book (it is really well paced, engaging characters, etc) it has left me feeling a bit t..."

I love your thoughts on books Jane, you always think about things that I never think about. I always took the Simon vs Baz trying to hurt each other to be Simon completely over-exaggerating and misinterpreting most of their meetings in the past. So when Simon talks about the past and their feuds I took him as an unreliable narrator of past events. I thought that because of seeing story elements from the past being completely different when Baz told them.

I think the same way as you when it comes to the plot, to me, this is a romance plot with a fantasy sub-plot. I think that was done on purpose, and to tie in with what Nicole was saying, a way to write a same sex romance YA book that could sell.


message 26: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea (coutlaw) | 22 comments I think the romance in this book is doing a lot of service to a certain (large) portion of the fan community for which Carry On was the story they read online as fiction or AU content, because there wasn't a market for reading the story through traditionally published fiction. To answer Nicole's question, I sadly don't think we'll see a Hunger Games or Harry Potter with a textually established LGBT OTP, at least not for a while.

As for the 'unhealthy' nature of Baz and Simon's relationship, I didn't really think it was all that bad. For me, it's a fairly standard YA trope (and I have to read a good chunk of YA for my job) that I think Rowell was satirizing, as she was many of the SFF tropes. I read this book as almost entirely tongue-in-cheek and I adored it!


Jane (yesmissjane) (yesmissjane) | 40 comments Paul wrote: "I always took the Simon vs Baz trying to hurt each other to be Simon completely over-exaggerating and misinterpreting most of their meetings in the past. So when Simon talks about the past and their feuds I took him as an unreliable narrator of past events...."

It's interesting to me that for you it was clear that Baz's version of events were more reliable. I guess this is a product of you finding Baz a more rounded or present or whatever character, as I don't remember the text really deciding one way or another... but maybe I missed that. (BTW, I totally agree that Baz is more compelling. Have you noticed that chosen one protagonists are almost always less intrinsically interesting than their side characters?) Taking this as a starting point, Baz remembers many of the earlier violent events as seeking to wind Simon up... but I'm not sure this really changes anything. In fact, it is precisely this 'revisioning' of events that I worry is so unhelpful. So your boyfriend raised his fist threateningly at you. Don't you think you are exaggerating what really happened, or failing to see that he was out of his best mind because he is so obsessed with you?

But I think I've said all I need to on this score. Don't want to be more of a party pooper than absolutely necessary.


message 28: by Veronika (new)

Veronika Barta | 4 comments I read a lot (and I mean a LOT) of Harry/Draco fan-fiction when I was a teen, and I think that I can maybe explain a couple of things:
When writing fan-fiction (except maybe when it's an alternate universe), you have to decide what amount of the canon you "follow", or rather when to turn away from the original story. That means that a lot of HP fan-fiction has to take into account the animosity between Harry and Draco, and try to explain it in a way that makes their future romance sort of logical, or at least more believable. In Fangirl, Cath is writing Carry On as following the seventh book in the series, so she has to "explain" how Baz and Simon end up in a relationship when they hate eachother so much in the first seven books.
Secondly, there's a lot of different kinds of fan-fiction available out there. Some really bad, some excellent, some shorter than a page, some as long as a book. But one thing that a majority of fan-fiction has, is the romance part. Usually, the OTP that the fan didn't find in the canon story. So the fact that Carry On's main plot seems to be the romance, and all the rest just sub-plot is completely logical when you remember that it's supposed to be fan-fiction.

Personally, I loved Carry On in great part because it's so much like the best of the Drarry fan-fiction I used to read (a long, long time ago).


message 29: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nicolepo) | 107 comments Jane (yesmissjane) wrote: "I just finished reading this tonight, and although I can completely see what other people have enjoyed in the book (it is really well paced, engaging characters, etc) it has left me feeling a bit t..."

I actually completely agree with you that their relationship is unhealthy. I also agree with some of the posts after that given the basis in fan fiction, it makes sense why the relationship is framed that way. Also, I think like 95% of the relationships in YA are portrayed in a very unhealthy way (and probably at least 80% of relationship portrayal in all media is not great.) So I tend to avoid thinking about the specifics of any given relationship too hard or in the context of how unhealthy I think it is. But I do agree, this is not the best portrayal of a gay relationship, and I hope it's a starting point from which YA fantasy improves in the next few years.


message 30: by Wil (new)

Wil  | 6 comments I am absolutely loving this book! I have only a few more chapters that I hope to be finishing today!

What I love:
- characters
- world, (it vaguely reminds me of Harry Potter)
- the friendships seen in this book are amazing
The EVERYTHING :)


message 31: by Krazyaboutbooks (new)

Krazyaboutbooks | 14 comments I just finished the book and gave it 3.5* and I enjoyed the story overall. I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated and kept me engaged the whole time and I loved the humour in the book especially the spells and the characters inner monologue. I have to admit I'm not a fan-fiction reader and never imagined Harry and Draco (Draco and Hermione forever plus Harry and Luna). I thought all the staring was kind of creepy plus (view spoiler).


message 32: by Maija (new)

Maija (maijavi) | 60 comments I know that this is an old thread already, and the debate is already old, but I want to just come in and recommend a video having to do with this whole "is sexuality a spoiler" thing.

In this video, Perpetual Pages speaks on the topic very eloquently, and handles the different aspects of it very well. The section about queer character starts at about 6:00, but I highly recommend watching the whole video:

https://youtu.be/UhfX9Rx8XiE

It's a lot like Paul said, that there is a double standard where mentioning a straight romance is fine, but a queer romance is a spoiler. Like he said: "A heterosexual book about arch rivals falling in love would be explicit in what the book is about right away on the blurb."

Also, when not mentioning LGBTQ+ content in a book, we are closeting the characters & hiding books from LGBTQ+ readers.

It feels a bit weird to re-open this conversation, but I just really want everyone to watch that video! It's so good!


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