Carry On: A Book Review and A Discussion about Fanfiction



Let’s talk about wizards, magic, and boys in love. I’m not talking about Harry Potter (or that Harry Potter Fanfic you read last night.) I’m talking about Carry On, a imaginary fanfic that turned into a real novel and how it is taking the world by storm!

Fanfiction was once a term only uttered in niche internet groups, but lately our favorite pastime has come into the spotlight. With authors turning more of their fanfiction into actual literature and other authors publicly speaking out against fanfics, the general world seems unsure if they should deem Fanfiction good or bad. In 2013 Rainbow Rowell showed us the secret life of fangirls in her beautiful novel Fangirl, a story about girl who writes fanfiction for her favorite book series.  The Book series is a parody of Harry Potter, with a fictional mage Simon Snow who attends a magical academy. Cath’s fanfic is one of epic proportions, with tons of reviews and a staggering word count. Its title is Carry On, and it should surprise no one that it is a slash fanfic pairing Simon Snow with his arch nemesis Basilton (Baz) Pitch.

Years after the original publication of Fangirl, Rowell has turned that fictional world of Simon Snow fanfiction into… a real one. Carry On, is her own interpretation of the piece Cath was writing in college. You would think it difficult to jump into, considering in Fangirl the Simon Snow series has Eight books published, but we’re already well acquainted with the concept of wizard schools like Harry Potter, so in true fanfiction form, the readers go in with established expectations for the characters and the world.

That doesn’t mean Simon’s school of Watford is identical to Hogwarts, not at all. In fact, Rowell does an amazing job of keeping the magical aspects of her world distinct. I adored how magic worked in Watford, playing off the idea that words are powerful and thus have magical properties (if a person is a mage.) Rowell has constructed her own take on a magical world and it’s in-depth, intriguing, and fun.

The only complaint I can think of for the books as a whole concerns the fact that the Simon Snow Series has Eight books of history which Rowell tries to fit into one. Somethings fall to the wayside, some aren’t touched on at all and some are handled halfheartedly. You can tell she had to pick and choose which items to really delve into while leaving the overall pacing… something left to be desired. But, I can’t argue too much. Fanfic authors often write one-shots or multi chapter fiction based on extensive universes. Authors have to pick which pieces of information they should describe and which the audience is already familiar with, Rowell uses our own familiarity of magical worlds to fill in these gaps.

The story’s closest parallel to fanfiction lies in romance between the two main leads. In Fangirl, Cath is adamant that Baz and Simon’s constant quarreling is a sign of their utter fascination with each other. In the novel we get to see the reality of this couple and how fans can often put enemies together as romantic interest. She explains how the past history between the two, which includes one being in a long term hetero relationship, can suddenly shift.

Art By Leela Wagner
Art By Leela Wagner

For me, the romance was the most exciting piece of the novel. Carry On is a prime example of what fangirls see (and want to see) in media. Sometimes the male lead doesn’t always end up with the girl, sometimes he might end up with another boy and that’s okay!

Odd as it may seem, the Simon Snow series that started off as a imaginary fandom is now a real one. The success of the novel has spawned dedicated tumblr pages, fanart, and yes, even fanfiction. Maybe its because Carry On speaks to fans of Harry Potter, just dying for a little more magic or maybe it speaks to all fangirls everywhere who have a favorite fanfic they’d love to see published. What I do know is that its success is a good thing in a world that often associates the word “fanfiction” with thoughts of 50 Shades.

Its place at #1 on the New York Best Seller’s list proves that readers aren’t intimidated by stories about two boys kissing. Making it a stepping stone for acceptance of diversity in YA books (and yes, fanfiction.) If you loved Harry Potter, pick up this book. If you loved Rowell’s other novels, pick up this book. If you like Chosen One’s, dragons, magic…er- just pick up this book. You won’t regret it.


Cara Averna is a movie nerd, an Otaku, and known bibliophile. She writes about Fandom studies, Anime, and Manga on her blog year around, but during fall she watches way too much horror movies and consumes everything pumpkin. Follow her on twitter.