Now that the war is over and the Chosen One no longer has a Fate attached to his future, he’s depressed. Listless. Hardly ever leaves his couch. Baz and Penny are worried about Simon Snow, and Penny comes up with a radical idea to take Simon out of himself: an epic road trip through the USA, land of magical wilderness (and lawlessness).
So. In Harry Potter, you get “Nineteen Years Later” that only vaguely tells you what happens to Harry and his friends after the war is over. This book addresses the immediate after, the psychological ramifications of having a pre-determined destiny for so long, and that destiny done and gone. It deals with grief and trauma and depression. Because when the war is over, that doesn’t mean the trauma ends. As the book says:
There is no end. Bad things happen, and then they stop, but they keep on wreaking havoc inside of people.
Four years ago, I read Carry On, the story of Simon Snow and his predestined fight against Evil. What I mostly remember about the experience of reading that book was how happy it made me, and how I just wanted to hug the book over and over. How I couldn’t stop smiling. The book made me happy from beginning to end, and I thought it was the perfect little standalone story. I had no idea that a sequel would ever be released, and I was a little taken aback when I heard about Wayward Son a few months ago. Of course, I knew I would read it. It’s not part of the same story arc, and revisiting these characters would be a great nostalgic throwback for me. I knew I’d enjoy their story.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to receive the book from the library smack in the middle of RIP season, right after finishing tons of mysteries and detective novels. It wasn’t the right time to read Wayward Son. I wanted more mysteries and detective novels! But I also didn’t want to return the book and get in the long hold line at the library again. I dithered. I barely remembered the actual plot of Carry On, mostly just the feeling I had while reading it and some of the characters involved. Perhaps I needed to reread Carry On before Wayward Son, I could put off the experience until I was in a different reading mindset…
On a whim, I read the first few pages of Wayward Son, just to see if I would need that reread. 1) I would not. This reads as basically standalone, with a major teaser cliffhanger at the very end. 2) “The first few pages” turned into a few fast-paced hours and then the book was done. And while I wasn’t smiling as much as I did during Carry On – the subject matter here gets really, really dark in places, much thicker than I remember from the previous book – I loved it just as thoroughly. I feel like Rowell dove in and really explored these characters and their psychology on a far deeper level, and kept a perfect balance between serious and light. Humor is such an underrated talent in fiction, I sometimes feel, and Rowell definitely has it. She can make me laugh out loud even in the midst of Very Bad Things happening. My favorite quotes from the book are the ones that had me in stitches:
Penny insists on something low-profile this time – which, in America, means a giant white monstrosity called a Silverado. (Silverado, Tahoe, Tundra. Everyone gets it, America, you’re very American.)
“Thirty-one hours to San Diego?!”
“That can’t be right…That’s like driving from London to Moscow.” … “It’s the same country.”
This last one reminds me of my very favorite Texas meme ever:
In the end, this book delighted me all the way through. I never expected a sequel to Carry On, and I didn’t expect Wayward Son to end on a teaser cliffhanger, revealing that there will be further episodes to follow Simon and Baz and Penny and Agatha. I said that when I read Carry On, I just wanted to hug it the whole time. I didn’t feel exactly the same with Wayward Son, but when I closed the book, I did hug it all the same.