I finally finished Carry On! As I expressed before, the beginning (as in the first 150 pages) was extremely slow-going for me. I didn't care for the allusions to Harry Potter, and there didn't seem to be anything of much consequence happening - Simon's position as the Chosen One, as well as his unfortunate magical ineptitude were clear, as was his obsession with Baz. I definitely would have appreciated it if Book One had been more concise because once I hit Book Two and Baz appeared on the scene, I was in it.
Rowell presents a valid commentary on societal inclusion/exclusion and the divide between social classes. However, I think the most striking aspect of Carry On was her attention to creating a diverse, young adult fantasy novel. I attended an author panel entitled "Diversity is More Than a Hashtag" at the North Texas Teen Book Festival in April. During the discussion, Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine, expressed her desire for authentic and diverse protagonists in all genres of literature. She created a Chinese protagonist for her novel because, growing up, there were no novels that included main characters that she could identify with culturally. The worlds of books should mirror the diversity in the world around us. White characters dominate all genres of literature, and minorities still read and identify with those stories. White readers would, similarly, still identify with more diverse characters, as well as broaden their understanding of various cultures. There is literally no reason to exclude minorities as the heroes or heroines in novels. In the case of Carry On, Rowell beautifully created a fantasy novel, in which the two leading characters are homosexual. And I think what makes that so fantastic is that it is a fantasy novel - the main characters just happen to be gay. Most of the GLBTQ YA I’ve read is realistic fiction, and the purpose is to show the evolution of owning one’s sexuality. But Rowell isn’t as focused on that; instead, she throws it out there nonchalantly, so the reader is like, “yeah, the protagonists are gay, no big deal.” For example, at the end of the novel, Simon states, “I suppose I am gay; my therapist says it’s not even in the top five things I have to sort out right now” (515). With the progress in gay rights and the passing of gay marriage, sexuality should no longer be a cultural or societal anxiety. The GLBTQ community is just as human as anyone else; there’s no reason that sexuality should prevent a tale from being told or cause that tale to become a spectacle rather than a story. I appreciate Rowell for providing me with characters I’ve never encountered before and easily (after the first 150 pages) fell in love with.
Having finished the novel, I would like to address a few elements I mentioned in my last post. First of all, I still find the spells obnoxious, but, at the same time, I have to give Rowell props for alluding to some awesome music - most obviously Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Secondly, I did find it amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed the running joke about the numpties, as well as any description of Fiona, who “likes to swear like a Normal” and "thinks she’s punk” (156). In the end, I did like Carry On; I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t had to wade through Book One, but overall, it was a witty read, and I would suggest taking a chance on it.