by Rainbow Rowell
2015 • 522 pages • St. Martin’s Griffin
Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On may be the most anticipated deconstruction of Harry Potter since we all stumbled out of our midnight screenings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, feeling very strange indeed.
Of course, there have been other deconstructions. The Magicians, The Unwritten, and Mr. Toppit are all deconstructions of Harry Potter to a degree, but they’re at once more broad and more narrow than Carry On. They pull from a variety of other texts, like The Chronicles of Narnia and Winnie the Pooh—but they pull only from those texts. What Carry On does differently from those deconstructions and, in fact, any other deconstruction I’ve read is that it also pulls from the metatext that is the vastness of the Harry Potter fandom, the ur-gateway fandom for Millennials.
In her acknowledgments, Rowell states that Carry On is her take on a Chosen One narrative, but you’d have to be (unfathomably) unfamiliar with Harry Potter to read this and not think of the Boy Who Lived. And, of course, that’s rather the point. Carry On is a deceptively soft deconstruction of Harry Potter: while it lacks the sheer brutality of The Magicians, it’s more interested in picking at holes you may have not noticed in the original text to unearth and engage with the strange implications underneath than trying to shatter your childhood innocence in one blow.
(No, I’m still not over how The Magicians ended, if you haven’t noticed how I’ve not finished the trilogy.)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Stumbling across Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl via cover artist’s Noelle Stevenson’s tumblr filled me with trepidation. It’s an instinctive response for any fan—we’ve spent so much of our history working in the shadows due to antagonistic relationships between creators and fandom that we can’t help but side-eye the modern tumblrina for tweeting Jeff Davis about Sterek. (Tumblrina: noun. Anyone on tumblr who makes me feel old.) But this wasn’t just about visibility. The copy for the book explains the protagonist’s status as a Big Name Fan and then asks, “Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?”
Groan. As I’ve said before, writing original fiction is not the logical progression of writing fanfiction. They are different, although related, impulses. Ana shared my concerns, but she got to the book first. She assured me that this wasn’t a story about a girl growing up by leaving “childish” fandom behind, although there were a few spots that might trouble me, the woman who wrote her undergraduate thesis on fanfiction as the ultimate form of a particular school of literary criticism. Despite the assurances, I still approached Fangirl tentatively.
Up Till Now
by William Shatner (with David Fisher)
I have always been vaguely aware of William Shatner, even before I realized he had played Captain Kirk. (Truthfully, I haven’t been much of a Trekkie until lately.) He popped up on television occasionally, and I knew that he worked on Boston Legal. It wasn’t until he released Has Been with Ben Folds that I really started taking notice of Shatner. This led to watching episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series and flipping out when he showed up at a Leonard Nimoy panel at Dragon*Con this year. (Let’s be honest- I was just one nerd among many when that happened.) I just love to hear him tell stories. He’s a wonderfully funny teller of tales, so I picked up this book to hear his own.