CARRY ON| St. Martin’s, 522 pages | Buy it on Amazon | B&N
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.
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.
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I’m writing about author Rainbow Rowell, who as I’m sure all of you know is a best-selling, award-winning young adult (and general fiction) author. To this day, my interview with Rainbow Rowell about ELEANOR & PARK is the single-most read post on Teen Lit Rocks. I can honestly say I loved Rainbow Rowell’s work from the beginning of her YA career, having read E&P in the Fall of 2012, months before its Feb. 2013 release. And as someone who reviews books and interviews authors regularly for a living, I can also honestly say that Rainbow Rowell is one of the most genuine, thoughtful, and approachable authors around. There are authors who seem more like actors. They’re best-sellers and they KNOW IT. Or they have trouble relating to fans or even journalists. But Rainbow Rowell is the kind of woman you meet and think — “you can’t possibly be this awesome”… until you meet her again and again and realize it’s not an act; she really is that fabulous.
I know it might seem like Rowell’s career has been meteoric, but she isn’t one of those teen or twenty-nothing authors whose first drabbles or fanfics magically turned into best-selling manuscripts. Here are five things to know about one of YA’s most beloved writers.
1. She met her husband Kai in junior high. This might seem like a trivial piece of personal history. But although she didn’t start dating her husband until after college, she truly believes it’s possible to fall in love as a teen and have that last, if not forever, at least for a meaningful time to impact the rest of your life.
2. She loves her hometown: All of her books are set at least partly in Nebraska except for CARRY ON. A lifelong Omaha girl, Rainbow Rowell writes what she knows, and all of her contemporary books feature Nebraska. From Eleanor and Park to college kids Cath and Levi, to her protagonists in ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE, everyone is Nebraskan. Even Noel and Mags in her short story “Midnights” in MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME are in Omaha. In fact, many of the main characters in FANGIRL are actually named after buildings from her alma mater, the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. So when she was asked to give Levi a last name after the book had already came out, she dubbed him Levi STEWART: “Like the other Fangirl characters, he’s named after a building on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. (Cather, Abel, Piper, Avery …)” she writes on her site.
3. Before she was a novelist, she was a journalist: A newspaper reporter and columnist, Rainbow Rowell was the metro columnist for the Omaha World-Herald for more than a decade, a job she first started in her early 20s. If you meet people from Omaha, they will tell you stories about her early columns or about being interviewed by Rainbow Rowell when she’s now so obviously a sought-after subject of interviews. Her background in reporting and commentary explains why she’s so good at her pop-culture references.
4. She’s a FANGIRL herself: Whether she’s talking about Benedict Cumberbatch, Outlander, Harry Potter, or old Disney movies, Rowell is open on social media about her personal fandoms. She doesn’t shy away from her sharing her enthusiasm about her favorite things, and it’s one of the reasons so many of HER fans find her enchanting and easy to connect with on Twitter.
5. The diversity in her books gets better and better: I know Rowell has received criticism for her portrayal of Park, who’s half-white, half-Korean, in ELEANOR & PARK. I will say that I have appreciated her inclusion of diverse characters in all of her books whether they were primary or secondary characters like Abel in FANGIRL and of course now Baz and the various other characters in CARRY ON. No author gets diversity perfectly, even those who themselves are from diverse backgrounds, and I think we should encourage authors to continue to challenge themselves to write inclusively, to research different kinds of characters, and to make sure they capture truths.