Rainbow Rowell’s magical romp Wayward Son is Harry Potter fanfiction meets Americana. The exploits of Simon Snow and Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch were a thinly veiled Drarry/Snarry reference slid into New York Times Bestselling YA Novel Fangirl that took on a life of its own. Here we are, two books later. Can it keep up the hype?
I’m no stranger to the HP fanfiction world. I whittled away countless hours at The Sugar Quill, Fanfiction.net and the Fuh-Q fests in day gone by. When I grabbed a copy of Carry On at my local Barnes and Nobles, I didn’t realize at first that this was the natural next evolution. #SnowBaz is the ship for hero Simon Snow and his roommate and secret vampire “Baz” Basilton Pitch written by Rainbow Rowell.
Book one reads like Book seven- that is, it covers the end of the Hero’s Journey. The hero makes a sacrifice, saves the day and gets the- guy. Jilted girlfriend Agatha rides off into a California sunset. No-nonsense best friend Penny makes sure everyone has their college applications turned in on time. Simon grows wings. It’s a thing. Last week Rowell dropped the sequel, Wayward Son, a book that explores after the happily ever after.
Beware all ye who enter here: Spoilers Ahead!
Unsurprisingly, it isn’t so rosy. After saving the world, Simon has lost his magic and his purpose in life. Penny’s high school romance has gone sour. Baz is desperate to keep the status quo and his own blood-sucking secret. Agatha maybe joins a cult. Cue roadtrip.
Reception to the book has been mixed, pointing out that loveable Simon is a lot, well… less. True to the spirit of the books, the PTSD has taken a toll on our hero. He spends most of the books trying to sort out who he is and what he wants. He also has to learn that friends are their own people too. The change of scenery and new direction do a lot for Simon, but there is no neat pat ending this time. We know from Book One that doesn’t work. Rowell is trying something new.
The book’s format lets us spend time with characters who didn’t get fair exposure in the rotating narrative of Carry On. Hermione doppelganger Penny sees the error of her ways when she is ghosted and replaced by her American boyfriend. I mean, Micah is a tool, Pen, but also let the guy break up with you the first time, okay? And now that the dust has settled, Baz and Simon have to figure out the logistics of dating your best frenemy.
The gang adopts Shep, young Black American normie and magical fanboy. Shep is probably the highlight of the book. He’s a character that might come off as a Gary Stu but is instead relatable and sympathetic. Shep is the reader avatar. He’s full of meta-knowledge, but he also supports the characters in their goals. Oh, and he also totally ships #snowbaz.
I’m not gonna lie: the ending is abrupt. While the plot flows nicely, I did feel myself getting end-of-book anxiety in the last 50 pages or so. I have to say, it really pays off. And for those who are disappointed, I just cannot imagine a world where an author left a book that open ended without intending a sequel. After Empire Strikes Back, we gotta hold out for Han to come back from carbonite in Return of the Jedi. For now, I’m going to bask in the experience that was Wayward Son and gear up for book 3.
Remember! There’s always fanfiction.
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