Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2)
by Rainbow Rowell
“But it was a mistake thinking of that as an end. There is no end. Bad things happen, and then they stop, but they keep on wreaking havoc inside of people.”
Published Sept. 24, 2019 by Wednesday Books
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Date finished: Sept. 26, 2019
Content warnings: depression, gore
The story is supposed to be over.
Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…
So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?
What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…
That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.
They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…
My thoughts (spoiler free)
🚨🚨🚨 This review contains spoilers for Carry On! 🚨🚨🚨
For anyone who read Carry On and is going into Wayward Son expecting a happy, fluffy road trip book in which nothing bad happens, I’m warning you now that that’s not what you’re going to find.
This is a book about what happens to the hero after the supposed happily-ever-after. The villain is defeated, the hero found love, and the world is put to right…but that’s not the ending.
Wayward Son picks up about a year after Carry On. Simon, Baz, and Penny are all in university – or at least, Simon is supposed to be in university, but he spends more time on the couch than in class. Tired of the pity he gets both from his friends and from himself, he’s about to tear his life apart when Penny insists that the three of them travel to America to visit Agatha. What results is an adventure-filled, hilariously under-planned road trip across a country that’s much bigger than any of them anticipated.
“How was I supposed to know that all these middle states are each the size of France? I’ve never even heard of Nebraska.”
So much of my love for this book comes from Simon’s emotional journey. When reading Carry On, that’s a major question for me: how is he going to, well, carry on after being raised as a weapon, taught not to think, betrayed by the closest thing he had to family, and losing his magic? It’s not something that can be tidily wrapped up in an epilogue, which is why this book’s exploration of his PTSD and depression was so important to me.
On a personal level, I understood Simon. I obviously haven’t been through any of the things that he has, but I graduated college earlier this year and there’s something about finishing school that feels weirdly similar to defeating an all-powerful enemy that drains you of your identity and childhood. Maybe that’s a little overdramatic but what I’m trying to say is that I empathized with Simon having no idea what he’s doing with his life. There’s this sense of what next? because the path that you’ve been following all your life is gone from under your feet.
Watching Simon slowly come back to life over the course of this book was the most beautiful thing. I’d like to send ten thousand thank-yous to Rainbow Rowell for writing this story for him.
Baz, of course, is the other main character of this book, and he gets his own storyline. Unlike Simon, Baz hates America – it’s too hot, too big, too full of guns (honestly relatable), and worst of all, he can’t figure out how to salvage a relationship with his boyfriend that he feels crumbling.
“I’ve loved him through worse. I’ve loved him hopelessly…
So what’s a little less hope?”
In my opinion, the “wayward son” in the title could refer to either Simon or Baz, but I love the idea of it being Baz. Because strangely enough, he does have a kind of homecoming in this book. For the first time in his (undead) life, he finds what could almost be a community and learns more about himself. There’s a scene in which Baz finally learns how to retract his fangs while eating, and it almost reduced me to tears. It’s such a small moment but it was so huge for Baz.
Penny makes up the third part of this main character trifecta, even though her storyline wasn’t as central as Simon’s or Baz’s. As usual, she’s bossy and sure that she’s right when everyone else is wrong, so watching some of her beliefs and preconceptions get challenged was certainly entertaining.
Agatha plays a part too, even though she moved to California to escape magic. And we get a new character, Shepard, who I’m very intrigued about and excited to see more of in the future!
Plus, there’s a dragon named Margaret. What more could I possibly ask for?
“There’s no safe time for me to see you, nothing about you that doesn’t tear my heart from my chest and leave it breakable outside my body.”
The relationship between Simon and Baz is strained in this book, and I think that’s going to be difficult for some readers to accept. They’re constantly out of sync and still haven’t figured out how to communicate. Shocking, I know, that after years of being enemies and only getting together after a major traumatic event they’d have relationship problems. Both of them are going through a lot in this book, and Rainbow Rowell never makes things simpler than they should be; she recognizes that two messy, traumatized people like these would find it difficult to be in a relationship. Simon and Baz still have a ways to go before their real happy ending, I think, and I for one can’t wait to see it.
Honestly, my main complaints about this book are on a technical, nit-picky level, such as the fact that sometimes scenes would be repeated from the POVs of multiple characters. I also wanted a little more closure on certain character arcs; some felt incomplete in a way that I’m sure will be carried over into the next book, but I wanted closure in this one. Still, on an emotional level, I was completely satisfied. Picking up this book was a little terrifying, since I’ve been anticipating it for over a year, but I was in no way disappointed.
Wayward Son is a book about the aftermath of trauma, and most of all it’s a book about healing. It may not be as sparkly and bright as Carry On, but in my opinion it’s the perfect follow-up, since it deals with the undercurrent of darkness that cut through Carry On without being fully addressed. Like the healing process, this book is a little messy, nonlinear, and irrational, and for me that was perfect.
“This will end in flames.”
Also, BREAKING NEWS: Rainbow Rowell announced on Twitter this morning what I assume is the title for the third book!
I guess we’re going back to Bohemian Rhapsody? Honestly, I can’t hear this title without thinking of Hadestown…
Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another four years for the next one!