Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic writer, and that's definitely clear in Carry On. Despite her talent, I still had mixed feelings about this book, but I think the writing is what really saved it for me. Carry On really does read as Harry Potter fan fiction, especially through the first half. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but combined with the slow pacing starting out, I struggled to stay interested until later on in the story.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters. (Goodreads)
My main complaint about the fan fiction style of this book is that none of the characters felt very original at first. They all had, at least in my mind, clear counterparts from the Harry Potter series. Carry On also jumps in at would be the last book in an initially fictional series and I feel like it draws too much on the reader's knowledge of Harry Potter to make up for the fact that we haven't gotten any back story. The plot of these "missing" books didn't seem so important to me as the character development. Simon has presumably been growing from all his adventures in previous books, but we don't get to see any of that like we do with Harry Potter. The reliance on Harry Potter also means that there's very minimal world building. I can only imagine that if you read Carry On without being familiar with Harry Potter it would be extremely frustrating.
Luckily the second half or so of the book took a turn for the best. The plot picks up and the characters finally begin to take shape as original creations. I felt like one minute I was questioning if I could finish this book and the next it was two in the morning and I was sad there wasn't more to read. I'll admit I still didn't think the plot was great, but Rowell's writing strength really shows in the interactions between characters. And since everyone seems to have something to say about it, I'd like to add that I am 110% on board with the Simon and Baz romance, which is absolutely adorable.
I am hesitant to recommend Carry On to people because of how much I struggled to get into it at first. On the other hand, if you're okay with Harry Potter fanfic or a fan of Rainbow Rowell's writing style, it's definitely worth the read.