Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I know very little about fanfiction and I have not read Fangirl so  all I knew about this book was that characters from Rainbow Rowell’s earlier work reappeared and the story had some connection to the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter world.  The Potter connection becomes obvious very quickly – a magical school, a platonic boy-girl friendship, a “chosen one”, and a powerful mentor who inexplicably keeps his distance.  But Rowell inserts unique elements, enabling Carry On to stand on its own with a completely different atmosphere – one that is lighter and quirkier than Potterworld.  Though the Watford school can’t hold a candle to Hogwarts and Rowell’s magical world-building is a bit thin, she tells a full, dramatic story arc in about 500 pages instead of seven books.  Momentum builds slowly but, once the plot takes off, the pages fly by.  Rowell’s writing of characters and relationships, however, shines beyond the plot.  Fangirl readers already know these characters but, even meeting them for the first time, I was impressed by how much Rowell is able to develop a fairly large group of teens and adults enough to make them interesting individuals.  I’m probably the only reader who didn’t predict the main relationship development but Rowell handles it beautifully, if you can believe that any teenage boy would communicate as well as hers do under these circumstances.  But I suppose that’s one of the benefits of writing fan fiction!

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