Book of the Week, children's books, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Carry On

I know it isn’t that long since I had Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl as BotW, but I loved this so much I couldn’t not pick Carry On – the book about the characters that Cath was writing about in Fangirl.  But you don’t need to have read Fangirl to understand Carry On as they’re separate entities – and there’s no cross over (or at least I didn’t notice any) between the story of this and the fan-fiction that Cath wrote in Fangirl (Rowell has said that this is Canon not fan fic).

So good that I read it on the train at 4.30 in the morning.
Paperback copy of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So, Simon Snow is returning to Watford School of Magicks for his final year.  But his girlfriend has broken up with him, his mentor wants to move him to safety away from the school and his roommate-cum-arch-nemesis hasn’t turned up – which Simon would be loving except that he’s a bit worried about him.  Then there’s the ghosts that keep turning up and the fact that the Evil Magic that’s trying to destroy the world (and particularly Simon) is still out there.

Now if this sounds a bit familiar to you, in Fangirl the Simon Snow series had a similar sort of world impact that the Harry Potter series did/does – so yes, it’s about a school for Wizards, and a Chosen One and his friends.  But it’s also not the same.  Magic works differently, the Baddie is different and the general dynamic is different and it’s not going to all work out the same (I don’t think that’s a spoiler).  As I was reading this I was reminded of how much I loved the Harry Potter series when it first came out, and how much fun there is to be had from a YA series about a Chosen One and which doesn’t feature a dystopian future world where everything has gone to pot.  And its been hard to find books like this – or at least I’ve found it hard.

I raced through this – reading pretty much 400 pages of it in practically one sitting (I stopped for dinner and Olympics) because I wanted to know what happened.  I suspect Harry fans may have a love/hate relationship with it – I wouldn’t describe myself as a super passionate fan* but I really liked it.  In fact I wish there were more books about Simon and Baz and their time at the school.  It did what I want an adventure-y thriller-y book for children/youngadults to do – it has a strong core group of characters with strengths and weaknesses (who compliment each other but also don’t always agree), who have challenges to overcome.  There is peril and adults are around but some of them are the problem and the rest might not be able to fix it.

I can’t guarantee that if you like Harry Potter you’ll like this, but equally I don’t think you have to like Harry to give this a try – if you like chosen one stories, quest stories, adventure stories then this one may well be for you.  And it should be everywhere.  My copy came from Tesco, but it’s also on Amazon, Kindle, Waterstones, Foyles, and Kobo.

*I own all the books (some in German and French as well), I reread Azkhaban fairly regularly and the other early books to a lesser extent, but don’t reread the end ones as much.  I’ve seen most of the films (but not the last one), I haven’t bought the script for Cursed Child, but I have tried to buy tickets to see it and I haven’t been to any Harry theme parks or attractions.

books, Children's books, new releases, reviews, Young Adult

Young Adult Reading Round-up

Welcome to my (roughly) quarterly round-up of what Young Adult and Children’s fiction I’ve been reading recently.

We start this time with Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage*, which is the first book in her Finishing School series.  Published 18 months ago – the third book is due out next month – it’s a steampunk school story which ticked quite a few of my boxes (Nineteenth century setting, school story, assertive female lead) and stayed on the right side of what I can get into when it comes to vampires and supernaturals.  I loved the premise – a finishing school which teaches its students espionage alongside social graces.  The cast of characters was interesting, the plot was pacy and you get the feeling there are lots more things still to be revealed in the rest of the series.  I think it would suit an early teen who was a Worst Witch fan and who likes Harry Potter – but it works for those of us who are Young Adult at heart with a thing for school stories as well.

In the last round-up I mentioned that Fools’ Gold by Philippa Gregory was on the to-read pile.  This is the third book Gregory’s YA series The Order of Darkness, which is set in the fifteenth century.  I suspect in coming to a middle book in this series I’ve probably spoilt the plots of the previous two – but hey, I wasn’t going to get books one and two just to read them in order because I happened to have bought book three.  That would be insane.  But this is an illustration (again) of why I prefer to read series in order.  Anyhow, enough digression.  Fools’ Gold is set in Venice where our intrepid heros Luca and Isolde are trying to track down the source of an influx of English gold that has hit the Venetian market, whilst also pursuing their own quests for various things.  It was fine.  Just fine.  It fell slightly the wrong side of my supernatural/paranormal limits – it’s more White Queen than Other Boleyn Girl – which may suit others but not me.  It filled an afternoon, but I won’t be hunting out the rest of the series.

In the last post I also mentioned that I was behind the curve with Rainbow Rowell’s work – and I have (finally) read Eleanor and Park.  For those who’ve missed it, set in the 1980s  Eleanor is the new girl in town with a troubled and chaotic home life; whilst Park is the boy in the headphones and black t-shirt at the back of the bus, busy trying to make himself invisible.  As the two get to know each other – through  mix-tapes and cartoons they fall in love.  But it’s not as simple as that of course.  Although I was worried for a while it was going to end up with me in tears on the train, it was all ok in the end (in that I wasn’t a weeping mess on the train) and I really enjoyed it.  I’m saddened (but not surprised) that this has been a bit controversial in areas of the US (swearing! sexuality!) but luckily that doesn’t seem to have dented the book’s performance. One for a mid-teenager I think – around the start of GCSE time.

Out next week is Oh Yeah Audrey* by Tucker Shaw – which is the story of 16 year-old Audrey Hepburn super fan Gemma and her meet-up with fellow fans who she met through her tumblr page dedicated to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s star.  I can’t say that I loved it, but it was perfectly fine whilst it lasted – although it did have a few issues, like a late plot development which I didn’t think was adequately resolved.  It’s set over the course of one day – so naturally there’s not a whole lot of scope for character development, but it does have a nice take on some of the best – and worst – bits of the social media revolution.

And a massively advance heads-up about Unspeakable* by Abbie Rushton – which isn’t actually out until February – which is bonkers.  I’m sure I’ll mention it closer to the time to remind you, but it’s really worth putting a note in your diary to look out for it because it’s really good. It deals with difficult issues, it’s powerful, it’s emotional and it’s gripping.  Unspeakable is the story of Megan.  She doesn’t speak.  She wants to – but the voices in her head won’t let her.  Then Jasmine joins her school and suddenly talkative Jasmine is unlocking things inside Megan – could she be the answer?  But what will happen if she rediscovers her voice?

So there you have it – the best bits of my latest Young Adult reading.  A quick mention should also go to the first Wells and Wong book* – which I reviewed in the Back To School post and is also well worth a look if you have someone to buy for who has read all of the Worst Witch, St Clares, Mallory Towers sort of books.  Book Two is due out early next year.  As usual – any more recommendations for what I should be reading in the YA world always welcome – pop them in the comments.

And thanks as always to NetGalley who provided me with my copies of the books which have asterisks (*) next to their titles in return for an honest review (as if I’d ever do anything otherwise).  All the others come from the pile of purchases!