I’ve been told you don’t have to read Fangirl to read Carry On, or vice-versa, but I really wanted the experience of reading them back to back. Based on my experience though, I’d actually say it might be even more interesting & better to read Carry On without being exposed to Fangirl first. I’ll explain why later, but for now, here are my individual reviews.
Fangirl was adorable. I loved the premise. A girl starting college. She’s a huge introvert, a nerd, unwilling to let go of her childhood comfort zone that manifests itself mostly in her obsession with her favorite book series, a series very similar to Harry Potter. She’s also intelligent, a great writer for her age, & has a massive following of fans who read her fanfiction online. Her twin sister wants her space, her dad isn’t well with too much space, & her roommate is a hard-ass with a cute maybe-boyfriend.
As the book goes on I loved how the characters develop. It was very realistic, though I did think that Cath was a bit extreme as far as her anxiety toward social gatherings go. That might just be because I couldn’t relate to that particular character trait of hers, meanwhile she had so many other similar traits as me.
I think it does a great job of showcasing how much your first year of college changes you, but I also thought it was trying to accomplish too many different topics, with no one concept really tying them together. Between her writing, her relationship with her sister, her father’s mental illness, her basically absent mother, her love life, & everything else, it felt a bit much toward the end. I think it probably could’ve been shortened a bit as well, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it all, it just could’ve been tighter.
Favorite quote: “I don’t like hello. It makes me sound like I have dementia, like I’ve never heard a phone ring before and I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. Hello?”
This book has been hyped up as much as a YA book can possible be. All of my favorite Booktubers, Bookbloggers, & BookInstagrammers love it. I had really high expectations.
When I started reading, those expectations were not being met. Throughout all of Book One (it’s separated into four parts) I was discouraged. It was an easy read, but it felt very predictable. It read like fanfiction. I was bored & upset because I felt that maybe it just wasn’t for me.
But as the rest of it went on, I was so happy. It still reads like fanfiction more than an actual fantasy story in my opinion, that’s not necessarily meant as an insult though. It reads like ridiculously good fanfiction, fanfiction by somebody who actually knows how to write.It’s a lot tighter, consistent, & better thematically contrived than fanfiction is. It has all of the elements of fanfiction though, just less cheesy & with a sort of ironic spin on well known tropes. The Chosen One trope, the I Let Gwen Stacy Die trope, Lost Orphaned Royalty, & even the Bechdel Test. There are also a number of vampire related bits that I thought were quite funny.
The setting & world-building is pretty much non-existent, because I believe you’re sort of expected to know the type of setting this world would entail already. There are a few rules laid out over the course of the story though. The characters start out very cookie-cutter, & as it goes on become more like contemporary YA characters. I loved them all, even the ones you’re not supposed to love.
I’ve been reading a lot of complaints that this book, as well as a lot of slash fanfiction, are offensive to the LGBT community. It’s been a main reason why a lot of Goodreads Reviewers are giving it bad reviews. I don’t think I necessarily agree with that. It’s akin to reading those kinky romance novels, is it a good depiction of romance & love? Probably not, but if these characters were straight, would we be criticizing it the same way? This is all not to say that this book is lusty or slash-fanfiction-like at all. It’s very tasteful. I just think it’s worth mentioning.
Overall I really liked it. It exceeded my expectations, despite the hype. I definitely think you’ll like this if you have any sort of emotional attachment to Harry Potter. It even hints at a previous generation pre-quel type of back-story, which was always my favorite part of the Harry Potter series.
I think this might’ve been better to read before Fangirl because each Fangirl chapter was separated by a mini-piece of Cath’s fanfiction. Her fanfiction was the sucky kind & really didn’t do much for the book. It might turn you off to the idea of starting Carry On. However, Rowell’s take on this story is a lot better. If you read it first, you won’t be spoiled to the romance plot or other character identities.
I also definitely recommend following Rainbow Rowell on Spotify. I’ll add her link to my music playlists page. The song Jesus Was a Cross Maker by Judee Sill on the Carry On, Simon playlist is amazing!
Favorite quote: “That breaks my heart, to think that you can’t remember a world without the Humdrum. I worry that your generation will just acclimate to it. That you won’t see the necessity of fighting back.”
(if you replace the word “Humdrum” with the word “war” I think this is a very realistic & poignant quote. Fighting back, however, in my opinion, would mean fighting against)
Also thought I’d take this opportunity to ask you guys to recommend some fanfiction. It has a dorky connotation, but some of this stuff is really great. In my opinion, nothing will ever beat The Shoebox Project.
Last thing! I have Snapchat now! Add me if want book related updates! I posted a beautiful unpackaging today! @ ReinReads