Throughout June, GeekMom will be celebrating Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell.
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The sequel to Carry On, Wayward Son follows Baz Pitch, Penelope (Penny) Bunce, and Simon Snow nearly a year after the events of the previous book —so beware of massive spoilers hereafter.
At the end of Carry On, which chronicled the main protagonists’ final year of school, Simon “The Chosen One” Snow had defeated the Insidious Humdrum, lost his mentor, and finally kissed his vampire roommate Baz. He had also lost all his magick in the final battle, leaving him powerless and with a pair of shiny red wings and a tail for his trouble. Now, as their first year of university draws to a close, Simon is depressed, Penny is worried, and Baz is afraid that his relationship with Simon is falling apart. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the trio’s old friend Agatha has tried to leave magick behind entirely by moving to California and refusing to take her wand with her.
Penny decides that the best thing to force Simon out of his depression and push Agatha into talking to them again is to take a road trip across America, ending up in California. The three fly out with as little planning as you might expect from a trio of know-it-all teens with magick on their side and soon find that America is a very different place from their familiar ordered suburbs of Watford, England. They find themselves chased across multiple states by a variety of creatures and only digging themselves deeper and deeper into trouble.
At the same time, Agatha is discovering that the NowNext retreat she has gone to with her Normal (non-magickal) American roommate might be far more sinister than it appears on the surface. Given enemies to defeat that are significantly more substantial than another university essay, Simon is coming further and further out of his shell with every step into danger they take, but is his happiness worth the risks the trio is facing?
Wayward Son takes a look at what happens to the Chosen One when their sworn enemy is finally defeated, and they have to settle down into an ordinary life. Simon has settled into a depression after losing his magick and spends most of his days on the couch eating junk food while his best friend and his boyfriend look on from the sidelines unsure of what to do. When you have been brought up all your life with a single goal in mind, how do you move on when you achieve it at the age of 17? Both Penny and Baz try to offer physical solutions, such as the road trip which forms the backbone to this novel, but in the end, it’s Simon himself who has to retake control of his own life, making this story an excellent choice for those dealing with their own mental health issues.
As in Carry On, Wayward Son is filled with humor. Baz is particularly funny, with a dry wit and a sarcastic tongue. His comments about the song “A Horse with No Name” by America had me genuinely laughing out loud. I had also forgotten how much I love the magick system at work here too, with spells based around commonly-used turns of phrase, quotations, and slang terms such as “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” to make someone leave you alone or “is this a dagger which I see before me” to reveal hidden weapons on a potential enemy.
Baz was easily my favorite character in Wayward Son, just as he was in Carry On. The take on vampires is unusual in this universe, and this book really explores that, showing us how different vampire cultures can be in different parts of the world. Baz gets to think deeply about what it means to be a vampire in his world and choose what path he wants to follow. In many ways, despite its dangers, America offers a better life for both Baz and Simon. Baz has more freedom to be who he really is, while the vast open skies and freedom of the road allow Simon to open up more than the stifling and controlled atmosphere of England. But the pair have to figure out if moving to this new place will offer them enough to look past the dangers it holds.
Wayward Son is a very different book to Carry On and explores these familiar characters when they are thrown into a whole new setting. Fans of the previous book will no doubt enjoy this one too although the meandering plot might put off some readers who are looking for something a little more structured. I’m already looking forward to reading the third book in the series (Any Way the Wind Blows) which we only know is “coming soon.” For now, I’d recommend picking up either the first book in this series—Carry On—or the book that inspired it all—Fangirl—if you’re interested in getting to know Simon, Baz, and their friends in the World of Mages.