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Young Adult Urban Fantasy Novels: Queer Edition - Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

Carry On book cover featuring Simon and Baz holding wands in front of a dragon.

There is a definite appeal to a story that contains fantastical elements that exist in a modern setting, made evident by the success of protagonists like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Bella Swan. If this is a genre that you enjoy, Carry on by Rainbow Rowell is a must-read. There are plenty of fun parallels and homages to the popular Wizarding World that’s captivated an entire generation, while offering unique twists and perspectives that will make the reader dissect everything they thought they knew about good and evil, and dark and light magic.

The novel unfolds in first person and from multiple points of view, though it is most often told through the two main characters Simon Snow and Tyrannous Basilton Grimm-Pitch (Baz.) It picks up in their final year at Watford School of Magicks, with the supernatural aspect of the story already established, and Simon’s fate already sealed as the prophesied “Chosen One” who is meant to end an evil force destroying the world of mages.

On the surface, Carry On seems to mirror other stories similar to it, with tropes such as a love triangle and an enemies to lovers arch. Unlike other novels with the same aspects, however, Rowell examines the effects those dynamics have on the characters, addressing issues such as mistrust, residual trauma, grief, sexuality, and unrealistic expectations. The characters are allowed to explore their relationships and identities, ranging from the complications of knowing you are queer and unwelcome as such in your family, to deciding what it means to be someone’s “happily ever after” and if it’s practical to have your life mapped out at eighteen, to not knowing what your attraction means and what label you fall under. Likewise, Rowell takes familiar power dynamics common in this genre, such as a seemingly benevolent figurehead, innocent bystanders who are caught up in something bigger than them, and the idea of “The Greater Good,” and exposes the problematic aspects that are not typically dealt with.

Instead of traditional magic spells taken from latin or made up rhymes and languages, Rowell makes everyday phrases and songs magic. The importance and power of words is a recurring theme throughout the novel, sometimes shown through the words spoken (or not spoken) by the characters, and often symbolized through the spells that are broken down and used.

One of the aspects that makes this book so addictive are the complex characters. Each one is realistic and endearingly flawed, and when you reach the end of the story you will be left feeling as though you are saying goodbye to old friends. Readers will be relieved to know that a sequel, titled Wayward Son, is due for release September 24th, 2019.

For those who want to buy Carry On, you can buy the book HERE

For anyone interested in pre-ordering Wayward Son, find out more HERE


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