Book Review: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

 

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

Note: Spoilers ahead for Carry on and Wayward Son!

Poor Simon Snow. In Carry On, he beats the big bad (the Insidious Humdrum) and the other big bad (the Mage), but at the cost of his own magic. Now Simon is a former magician with no magical power, and he still has the enormous wings and tail he spelled onto himself before his magic went away. And now, a year after the big showdown, he mostly just hangs around listlessly, sharing a flat with Penelope, still in a romance with Baz, but one that seems to not be particularly romantic or much of anything at all.

Meanwhile, their friend (and Simon’s ex) Agatha is trying to lead a magic-free life in San Diego among the Normals, going to school and hanging out with a health-conscious friend who’s trying to convince her to “level up” in her new, exclusive club (cult?).

When Penelope becomes convinced that Agatha is in danger, she talks Baz and Simon into coming to America with her (using magicked airplane tickets and cash), and off they go to explore a brave new world. First stop? Chicago, where Penelope hopes to set off some new sparks with her long-term, long-distance boyfriend Micah. But it turns out that Penelope’s determination (and inability to really listen) mean that she missed something important. What follows is one of the funniest break-up conversations I’ve ever read:

“You. Don’t. Listen. To me.”

“I certainly do.”

“Really? I told you I was tired of being in a long-distance relationship — ”

“And I agreed that it was tiring!” I say.

“I told you that I thought we’d grown apart –”

“And I said that was natural!” I half shout.

So once Penny’s heart has been broken, she, Baz, and Simon get back in the car and hit the open road on the way to California, but of course, their road trip doesn’t go exactly as planned. Along the way, they discover that what they don’t know about America can definitely hurt them. Magic is much less regulated, and is very much tied to the Normal population, so as they head across the great wide open of states like Iowa and Nebraska, they hit dead spots where their magic sputters and fails, leaving them easy prey for other magickal creatures who have a rather strong dislike for magicians. Oh, and they kill vampires. Publicly. And pick up a Normal sidekick, who seems to know an awful lot about the magickal world.

There’s adventure after adventure, all leading to a showdown with vampires in the vampire capital — Las Vegas, of course. And a big rescue. And lots of fabulous fashion.

I ate this book up — I think I finished it within 24 hours of starting. And it’s glorious fun, but left me hungry for (a) MORE and (b) maybe a bit more content?

Here’s what I wish and wonder, now that I’ve finished Wayward Son:

♥ I want Simon to get his power back! I know, that’s not the way it works… but still, it’s just so sad to see the greatest magician of all times without his power. Although he is still a fierce fighter, wings and all.

♥ At the end, Simon seems to be contemplating getting his wings and tail removed, starting uni, and leaving the magickal world behind for good. Does this mean leaving Baz behind too? SAD.

♥ Poor Baz and Simon love each other so much, yet they can’ seem to connect. Will Simon come around, or is their relationship doomed?

♥ We learn that a vampire bite doesn’t automatically turn a human into a vampire, which is what Baz has believed all along. So how does it work? How does a human get turned?

♥ Agatha is still the only person who knows who Simon’s parents are. It’s never mentioned in Wayward Son. Will Simon ever find out? What will it do to him when he does? And does the ritual that gave him all his power in the first place hold some key to getting it back? (Yeah, I really, really do want Simon to get magic back. Can’t help it. What would the rest of Harry Potter’s life be like if he defeated Voldemort but lost all his wizarding gifts as a result? Pretty sad, huh?)

Oh, Simon.

It’s time for me to stop pretending that I’m some sort of superhero. I was that — I really was — but I’m not anymore. I don’t belong in the same world as sorcerers and vampires. That’s not my story.

Baz wants a future with Simon. Simon seems about to tell Baz that he’s leaving their world (and Baz, too, in that case), when Penny rushes up to tell them that they need to get back to England immediately to deal with an emergeny at Watford.

Will Simon go? Will the crew save the day? WILL THERE BE ANOTHER SIMON SNOW BOOK?

I do really and truly love this world of Rainbow Rowell’s, and as always, I love her writing. There’s deep emotion and connection and searches for meaning, but it’s also just really funny.

We literally have three “pickup trucks” in all of England, but here they’re everywhere. What is it that Americans have to pick up that the rest of the world doesn’t?

But she can also break your heart:

There’s no safe time for me to see you, nothing about you that doesn’t tear my heart from my chest and leave it breakable outside my body.

I adore the characters (BAZ FOR THE WIN!), and the author’s spin on a magickal world and what it means for the various types of people who inhabit it. Wayward Son is very much a road-trip book, and I did wish for a little more of the sense of world-building wonder that was so powerful in Carry On.

Please, please, please let there be a book #3! I don’t think I can stand leaving the characters and the story this way. MORE, PLEASE!

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The details:

Title: Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: September 24 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Purchased

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/30/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life. 

Wishing all who celebrate a sweet and happy new year!

And in other news…

No more cast! The cast came off this past Friday, and now I have a brace to wear for about six weeks. Freedom! You have no idea how great it feels to take a shower without having to wrap my arm in plastic first. Now comes the hard part — I start physical therapy on Tuesday, and I’ve been warned already that it will hurt.

But yay for being on the road to recovery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I read during the last week?

In brand-new fiction:

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen: Don’t be put off by the misleading cover image — this is a thoughtful, touching novel about a woman who chooses a new life in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn. My review is here.

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman: Beautiful and tragic. My review is here.

In audiobooks:

Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart: The Kopp Sisters series continues strong in this, the 5th installment, and the audiobook narrator is as terrific as always. My review is here.

Book group reads:

I couldn’t help it — I was so frustrated by reading The Pickwick Papers in tiny increments that I ended up reading through to the end. I suppose I’m glad to have read it, but of the four Dickens novels I’ve now read, this one would go at the bottom of the list for me.

We wrapped up our group read of Virgins by Diana Gabaldon this past week. For me, it was my 3rd time reading this novella. If you’re an Outlander fan and haven’t read this yet, definitely check it out!

Pop Culture

While on the plane traveling to a conference this week, I started watching season 1 of Fleabag.

Man, is it funny. And man, do you not want to be watching this in public! I didn’t realize how filthy (in a good way, IMHO) this show is, but watching on a plane, I felt like I had to keep hiding my screen — especially since I was using captions. Hilarious — can’t wait to continue!

Fresh Catch:

Hurray! My copy of the new Simon Snow book arrived this week while I was away.

And thank you, Orbit Books, for sending me a copy of Ghoster! Sounds creepy and delicious — can’t wait to start!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith: I’m only just getting started.. but a library in hell? Yes, please.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli I was in the mood for a light-hearted listen, and so far, this seems to be hitting the spot.

Ongoing reads:

None at the moment! My book group has a new novella starting next week, but our next classic read doesn’t start until December. What will I do with all my reading freedom for the next two months? (I’m sure I’ll figure it out…)

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/23/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life. 

Woo hoo — I finally get my cast off at the end of this week! I can’t wait to be done… although then I’ll be starting physical therapy, and I’ve been warned already that’s it’s going to be HARD.

I’m heading out of town for a few days this week for a work conference, and you know what that means? Four hours on a plane each way to read!

 

What did I read during the last week?

In brand-new fiction:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I’m really surprised by how many negative reviews there are on Goodreads for this book. I gave it 5 stars! My review is here.

In audiobooks:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: I finished the audiobook (as a reread), and loved it. Still not sure I get everything about the Insidious Humdrum, but oh well. At least I’m ready to dive right in when the sequel comes out this week!

In middle grade:

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden: The follow-up to Small Spaces, Dead Voices is another fun ghost adventure for middle grade readers. It’s got some good thrills and chills (nothing too terrifying) and a nice focus on friendship and family.

And in graphic novels…

The Walking Dead, volume 32: Rest in Peace: I can’t believe it’s all over! While the TV series may keep going for decades longer, the comic series has come to an end. Rest in Peace is actually a very good ending for this series, which has had some ups and downs, but overall, has been an incredible journey.

Pop Culture

I couldn’t resist — I went ahead and started season 3 of Veronica Mars. And I’ve got the same mixed feelings about this season as I had the first time around. But hey, on the bright side, when I finish this season, I’ll have the movie up next!

And speaking of movies, I took myself to see this over the weekend:

There really isn’t much of a plot, but it doesn’t matter — the whole point is spending a couple more hours with all the characters. And hearing the Dowager Countess get in some good zingers.

Fresh Catch:

I treated myself to two books this week:

An adorable hardcover edition of Little Women, to go with my copy of Anne of Green Gables from the same series (Puffin in Bloom); and…

… this amazing-looking two-sided, accordion-style book. Can’t wait to start it!

I also hit the big library sale last week, and showed remarkable self-restraint! I spent $30 and came home with 11 books. Not too shabby!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Institute by Stephen King: I’ve just barely started it, so I’m not into the story yet. I may put this one aside temporarily, since I have the hardcover edition and don’t want to take it on the plane with me.

Now playing via audiobook:

Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart: Book 5 in the terrific Kopp Sisters series. Even though I received a print ARC of this book a couple of months ago, I decided to hold off and wait for the audiobook. So far, I’ve listened to the audiobooks for the whole series, and the narrator is amazing!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — Instead of going at my group’s pace, I decided to just push through to the end via Serial Reader. I think I’ll be done in the next few days! Finally.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — Finishing this week!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/16/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life. 

I’m down to the last two weeks in a cast. I’m much better at functioning with one hand — but I’ll be happy to move on.

What did I read during the last week?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: Lovely story. My review is here.

Reticence by Gail Carriger: I finished the audiobook last week. My review is here.

Pop Culture

I just finished season 2 of Veronica Mars last night. Now what? I know I’ll probably end up continuing straight on to season 3, but not without some qualms. I remember hating that season when it originally aired and swore to pretend it never happened… but for continuity’s sake, I guess I can’t ignore it forever. Sigh.

Fresh Catch:

My two most highly anticipated releases for fall 2019 both came out this week! My book mail made me very happy.

Also, a family member who shares my interest in true-life survival stories sent me this book this week:

Looks terrific! I think I’m going to save it for my flights to and from a conference later this month.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I’ve made it through about half so far, and I’m loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Doing an audiobook re-read of Carry On before the release of the sequel. I can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about the story… but that’s okay, it gives me a chance to be surprised and entertained all during my listening adventure.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — I’ve basically given up on keeping up with our group read of this book, but since I’m determined to finish it, I’m switching over to Serial Reader and tackling it in small daily chunks instead.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — I’ve read this novella a couple of times before, but it’s great fun to reread it with the group. We’ll be done by the end of the month.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry OnIf you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s absolutely adorable novel Fangirl (review), you’ll be familiar with the name Simon Snow. As in, the hero of the (fictional) bestselling series about a boy wizard who learns at age 11 that he’s the Chosen One, and embarks on a new life at a (fictional) school of magic. In Fangirl, the main character writes wildly popular Simon Snow fan fiction, entitled Carry On, Simon.

In Rainbow Rowell’s newest novel, Carry On, we have the continuation of Simon’s story — but not the canon version, from the (fictional) official series author, but the fanfic story, picking up where Cath’s tale leaves off in Fangirl.

Confused yet?

Carry On is set completely within the magical fantasy world of the Simon Snow series. Simon is the main character, and alternates narration with his best friend Penelope, girlfriend Agatha, roommate and archnemesis Baz, and a handful of others as well, including the Mage, the all-powerful but highly controversial headmaster of the Watford School of Magicks.

It’s the eighth and final year of their magical education, and Simon return to Watford determined to confront Baz and figure out how to defeat the Humdrum, the big evil who’s menacing the entire world of magic. But Baz doesn’t show up as expected, and Simon becomes consumed by the idea of tracking down Baz, searching the school and the Catacombs for him night after night.

Finally, when Baz shows up, Simon is forced to share with him a secret — that Baz’s mother’s ghost visited, and wants Baz to learn the truth about her death. Reluctantly, the two boys declare a truce, and set out to solve the mystery, along the way poking at the edges of the myths and prophecies of the magical community, defying the prejudices of the old families, and trying to figure out just why they’re so obsessed with each other.

As in the fanfic we read in Fangirl, the heart of Carry On is the relationship between Simon and Baz. Underneath the enmity that simmered between them for all the years they were forced to be roommates is a strong and steady and mutual attraction, which the boys finally acknowledge and explore in Carry On. It’s sweet and funny and tender, and well, complicated too. Baz hides the secret that he’s a vampire, which isn’t as much of a problem for Simon as he would have expected. Their differences are acknowledged, and they’re just so friggin’ cute together that we know they’ll figure it all out in the end.

The magical mysteries — where did Simon come from? what’s up with the prophecy? what or who is the Humdrum? — all get resolved by the end, although I’m not sure that every answer is 100% satisfying. I mean, the bit with the Humdrum and how he’s finally stopped didn’t totally work for me, and I wanted Simon to get more of an answer about his parents. As far as I could tell, even though we readers find out the truth, Simon doesn’t, and that doesn’t seem fair.

Overall, I loved this book. It’s just so gosh-darned cute! The spells that they cast aren’t faux-Latin as in a certain series that we all know and love — in the world of Simon Snow, words have power, and the more certain words are used, the more power they have. So, the spells are all cliches, from “up, up, and away” to “stay cool” to “suck it up”, and it never stops being funny to see how they work.

Carry On is great fun for anyone who’s read and enjoyed certain children’s fantasy series — especially Harry Potter, of course. There are all sorts of winking references to the world and lore of Harry Potter, and it’s done with such an air of excitement and amusement that it feels like an homage, not a parody. Having read Fangirl, I’m not really in a position to judge whether Carry On works as a stand-alone… although if I had to guess, I’d say it would still be enjoyable on its own. Still, if you’re going to read Carry On, I’d strongly suggest starting with Fangirl to get the background and flavor of the Simon Snow phenomenon.

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The details:

Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Length: 522 pages
Genre: Young adult/fantasy
Source: Purchased

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