Carry On

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Carry On Book Poster Image
Harry Potter-like fantasy is funny, romantic, delightful.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the power of the hero's journey and how the author uses aspects of archetypes to tell Simon's story.

Positive Messages

The classic good-vs.-evil tale is present but also turned on its head. Sometimes those who appear evil are actually good and those who appear good have unsavory intentions. The idea that power corrupts instead of enlightens is emphasized, as is the need for a strong support system. Redemption, forgiveness, humility, mercy, and love all are explored.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they bicker, the teen characters in the story work together to defeat their enemies. They're open-minded enough to look at situations differently and to reassess whether people are right or wrong or somewhere in between. Penelope is a firmly platonic female best friend who loves, supports, and helps Simon through all his various trials. Simon and Baz learn to admit their feelings for each other, despite years of pretending to hate each other.

Violence

A few notable characters die or are injured, usually during magical duels or fights. One character is kidnapped and kept alive but under frightening conditions. Magical persons and creatures kill one another in occasionally bloody ways. A vampire hunts for animals to feed on so he doesn't have to drink from humans and sully his family name.

Sex

A few passionate kisses between two teen boys. One jokes that their relationship isn't the "erotic gropefest" he dreamed of and is mostly holding hands and kissing. Flashbacks to a couple who conceive a baby for a particular purpose. A male character recalls thinking he could "wank" his feelings out so he could stop obsessing about his crush.

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "f--king" (as an exclamation, not a verb), "s--t," "arsehole," "arse," "bloody," "wanker," "tosser," "tit" (as insult, not body part), "git," "bastard," "bitch," and so on. Given the life-and-death circumstances these characters live in, the language doesn't seem gratuitous. The word "fags" is used the British way: as another word for cigarette, not a pejorative term for gay.

Consumerism

Starbucks, Range Rover, and a Spencer Hart bespoke suit.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A couple of characters smoke cigarettes or fondly recall smoking. An adult woman occasionally rolls her own joints. A character describes sharing someone else's power as feeling drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Carry On is best-selling author Rainbow Rowell's third young-adult novel, a fantasy spin-off of the story-within-a-story in Fangirl -- with her own twist. What started out as a tribute to Harry Potter in Fangirl gets its own fleshed-out final story in an imagined franchise. The book contains some fantasy/magical violence that kills or injures a few characters and threatens the magical world of the book. The central romance plays out between the protagonist and his male roommate, who share a few passionate kisses. Strong language is used throughout (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and a couple of characters smoke cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytobier March 3, 2016

Was surprised how much I liked it

I was also surprised at how non-harry-potter-like it was. It has it's own story. I wondered whether I should check 'great role models' for this... Continue reading
Adult Written byabbacus January 24, 2016

Loved it!

This is the second Rainbow Rowell book I've read (the other being Fangirl) and it was so good! I liked Fangirl a little better, but Carry On is still a gre... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byQueenofthegeeks February 27, 2016

LGBT main charaters, feminism, a good plot, and magic!

I love this book. It's not often you see a book with LGBT+ characters, feminism, a good plot and MAGIC. There is strong language in the book, but languag... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byrebeccathorpey February 16, 2016

Hands down my favourite book

Carry On just fills me with this warmness when I think of it. The characters are fully formed and developed and break stereotypes, (a vampire that doesn't... Continue reading

What's the story?

CARRY ON is a spin-off with the fantasy characters whom author Rainbow Rowell created for her protagonist Cath to obsess over in Fangirl. An ode to Harry Potter, it's the story of Simon Snow, the most powerful young wizard of his age -- a "Chosen One" prophesied to defeat the mysterious Insidious Humdrum, a force that creates deadspots (places where no one can perform magic) throughout the magical world of the United Kingdom. In addition to having no idea if he will survive his destiny, Simon must deal with his brilliant but worried best friend Penelope; his mostly absentee mentor, the Mage; his overwhelmed girlfriend, Agatha, the prettiest girl at Watford School of Magicks; and his roommate and nemesis, Baz -- who drives him crazy.

Is it any good?

Once readers get past the obvious Harry Potter parallels, they'll find this page-turning romance yet another winning and heartwarming story from Rainbow Rowell. There's something magical about Rowell's coming-of-age tales, so this expansion of Fangirl is brilliant. Featuring a diverse and compelling set of characters, Carry On works, because Rowell is such a natural, humorous storyteller who captures the feelings of first love and self-discovery. It may initially be hard not to think of Simon as Harry, Penelope as a combination of both Ron and Hermione (she's initially a redhead and comes from a huge middle-class family), and Watford as Hogwarts, but as the story continues, those similarities fall away, and Rowell takes Simon on his own original journey. And of course, since Rowell is an expert in the slow-burning romance, the love story here is far more central than all that blink-and-miss snogging at Hogwarts.

The strength of Carry On is that once again Rowell doesn't soft-peddle the confusion and frustration of being a teenager, something that's amplified tenfold for an orphaned wizard such as Simon Snow. Not only is Simon working through his uncontrollable magic that just "goes off" like a bomb, he's also pretty obviously captivated with Baz, who in turn has always been in love with Simon and used his snobbery and disdain to mask his attraction. In lesser hands, the whole magical-world-building, character development, and gay romance would've crumpled under the weight of too many story lines, but Rowell has imbued Carry On with so much depth and humor that readers will instantly want to reread it and once again cheer for Simon to earn a happily ever after.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the book's relationship to Harry Potter. Is it a tribute, a parody, or loosely inspired by? What are the parallels between the Carry On characters and those in Harry Potter? What are the major differences? How are all fantasy journeys relatively similar?

  • How does this story of Simon and Baz compare with descriptions of Cath's beloved books in Fangirl? What did Rowell change in fleshing out the story?

  • Discuss the romance in the book. Why do you think it's important for authors to depict LGBTQ and other diverse characters in mainstream books?

Book details

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