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Wayward Son: Simon Snow Series, Book 2

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Wayward Son:  Simon Snow Series, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Road trip takes a dark turn in riveting fantasy sequel.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Bad things happen, and then they end. But they continue to wreak havoc on people for a long time afterward. Strong bonds of friendship and love, plus a change of scenery, can help you on the way to recovery.

Positive Role Models & Representations

College-age teens are loyal and supportive of one another. Their lives are changing drastically, and they're each having a hard time coping and figuring out what their lives are about now, and what they'll be like in the future. They make rash decisions and break every rule in the book, which of course lands them in big trouble. Simon and Baz can't bring themselves to talk openly and honestly with each other out of fear that the other one doesn't love them anymore. Early on they both briefly mention being afraid to show affection for each other out of fear of what others might think or do. New character Shepherd is the voice of reason/rescuer, and a positive African American role model.


Mostly fantasy violence between magical people and fantasy creatures. Some fights with punching, stabbing, setting on fire, magical beheadings, shotguns, and machine guns. Blood and injuries are mentioned but described in detail. One character is a vampire who only feeds on animals, but breaking the necks and drinking the blood of rats, a rabbit, a goat, and a cow are mentioned. Another vampire bites and feeds from a human. Characters are tied up, gagged, and kicked.


A  same-sex couple shares a few kisses, with only emotions described. Some romantic feelings and physical attraction is mentioned or described briefly, no body parts are mentioned. People seen making out at a party.


Rare uses of "F--k," "s--t," "bitch."


A few miscellaneous brands, like food and cars, mentioned to establish location or character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Early on a character is always having cider, presumably hard cider. A 20-year-old and older adults drink at a glamorous party. A character remembers getting drunk on dandelion wine served by a fantasy creature. A character feels a prick on her arm and then loses consciousness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the fantasy Wayward Son is a sequel to the popular Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. Reading Carry On first is recommended to help understand the characters and events that got them to where they are when this story opens. The main characters are now college age, living on their own in London, in their late teens and early 20s. Most of the violence involves fantasy creatures and magicians, with injuries and blood mentioned but not described in detail. One character is a vampire, and feeding on animals after breaking their necks is mentioned. Another vampire feeds on a human, blood is mentioned but there aren't any gory descriptions. Strong language is rare but includes "f--k" and "s--t." Individuals in a same-sex couple kiss a few times with descriptions of emotions rather than physical acts or body parts. Adults, a 20-year-old, and a character in his late teens drink in some scenes. Themes are mostly about how hard it is to cope with change and with the aftermath of momentous events, even when the outcome was good. Bonds of friendship and love, having people you can count on, can help you through those times.

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What's the story?

WAYWARD SON answers the question, "Now what?" Yes, Simon, Baz, and Penelope saved the day and the magical world of the UK in Carry On. And now that they've left Watford school all they have to do is figure out the rest of their lives. Easy, right? Well, no, not even close. Even though they ultimately triumphed, they did so at great cost to themselves, and it's clear nothing will ever be the same again. Simon and Baz can barely bring themselves to speak to each other, each afraid of what the other might say. Penny can't shake the feeling that Agatha, who's moved out to California, is in trouble. So Penny decides a road trip across the U.S. is just what the trio needs to get out of their funk. Starting in Chicago, where they visit Penny's boyfriend Micah, the trip throws everyone off guard with one unexpected turn after another. Turns that include a gun-toting unwelcome committee, a dragon; a vampire king, and a Silicon-Valley tech bro who Wants. It. All.

Is it any good?

This fantasy sequel is sure to surprise and delight fans who've waited patiently since the first installment for Simon's "happily ever after" to begin. They'll have to wait a little bit longer, though, because in Wayward Son, no one's happy with their situation after the events of Carry On. Just as she has so ably created relatable characters and captured the chaos and romance of first love, here author Rainbow Rowell captures the ongoing devastation when things didn't turn out the way you wanted or hoped they would. Simon, Baz, and Penelope are such well-developed characters by now that the Harry-Potter parallels fade even further into the background. Yet she keeps the pages turning by throwing one surprise after another, and plenty of danger, too, at the heroes. Fans will also find endearing the way the trio mostly flounders and blunders their way out of sticky situations while keeping and strengthening their bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty.

Colorful, mysterious new characters add intrigue as we watch old friends try to figure out motives and whom to trust. The cliffhanger ending absolutely demands a third installment. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Wayward Son's similarities to, or differences from, the Harry Potter series. What's different about how magic works? What about the main characters?

  • If you read Carry On first, is there anything that surprised you about this one in terms of the characters or the story itself? If you haven't read it, would you like to now?

  • Why are fantasy books, especially series, so popular? What do we love about them? How does this series compare to you favorites?

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