Photo Credit: Hayley Whelan
For any readers looking for a break from heavy and convoluted material, Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series provides a lighthearted, diverse twist on a saturated genre. The series contains three books, Carry On, Wayward Son, and Any Way The Wind Blows. You may have seen the latter on the front display at Coles in the Avalon Mall. Each cover features colourful depictions of the main characters, Simon Snow and Basilton (Baz) Grimm-Pitch. In this case, I feel comfortable instructing readers to judge the book by its cover, as nothing is lacking in the artwork that doesn’t convey the playful, feel-good sentiment that this novel imparts on the reader.
While being LGBTQ-friendly reads, these books tell a story that is suspiciously similar to some of J. K. Rowling’s work with Harry Potter. Chosen ones, prophecies, ‘magick’ wands, a co-ed school for the magickally inclined in England… The similarities aren’t lost on the reader, and they are not a coincidence. This book series stemmed from another novel written by Rainbow Rowell called Fangirl. In Fangirl, a college-aged girl writes alternative fanfics for a series of seven books based on a male hero, Simon Snow. Her fanfics focus on bringing together Simon and his “evil” adversary Baz in a relationship that the original books didn’t fulfil. After the success of this novel, Rainbow Rowell decided to make these ‘fanfiction’ novels real by writing them herself.
I have read Fangirl, and while I discovered that the original novel left much to be desired, I was not disappointed in the Simon Snow series that became the fruit of that venture. While some may roll their eyes at the prospect of reading another Harry Potter look-alike, I can assure you these novels do not cover the same material as those of J. K. Rowling. The Simon Snow series starts in the final year of school (think Deathly Hallows) and answers the question “What is left for the chosen one when his prophecy is fulfilled, and how does he cope with becoming average?” Rainbow Rowell’s take on the story also provides us with slightly more realistic situations, giving the main characters some reality checks (for example, reminding them they have cell phones). These books also deal with the very real trauma that these young adults will likely be coping with for the rest of their lives in the wake of the repeated exposure to nightmare scenarios in their youth.
J. K. Rowling was never famous for her use of meaningfully diverse character identities, but Rainbow Rowell fulfils many of our desires for minority representation in mainstream media through her powerful and distinct characters. Although the ease and aloofness with which the novels were written can become exhaustingly simple at times, and adept readers may struggle to feel fulfilled with the writing style, if timed right, the Simon Snow series can provide a much-needed break from intricate storylines and depressing character schemes, particularly during the semester.