*Warning, the latter part of this article contains spoilers for the ending of Wayward Son*
Wayward Son, released back in November 2019, is the sequel to fantasy novel Carry On, which was written by Rainbow Rowell and released in late 2015. Wayward Son is also the second book in the Simon Snow trilogy, with Any Way The Wind Blows currently being written. Being released four years after the first book, fans had high expectations for the sequel, myself included. Personally, I think it was the sequel we never knew we needed. Though it turned out quite differently than I had expected, we got to see the characters progress in very surprising and interesting ways. At the start of the book, our four characters begin in very different places than they were in Carry On, both physically and figuratively. However, they are all still dealing with their past trauma in different ways and trying to find their place in the real world. This book managed to make me cry (sometimes with a single sentence) and laugh out loud many times throughout. Seriously, if you thought the dialogue in Carry On was hilarious, just wait until you read Wayward Son.
Agatha is away studying in California, and Penelope decides that the group should go on a roadtrip across America and check on her, since she hadn’t heard back from her recently, and she thinks that Simon could do with the change of scenery. She rents a convertible, and the trio go on an adventure across the USA to find Agatha, and find themselves caught up in some major vampire drama. Without Simon’s magic, they must find a way to take down the vampires, all whilst processing their past trauma.
Instead of a happy ever after, the book follows on from Carry On by continuing to demonstrate the realistic and devastating effects of being the stereotypical ‘hero’ who sacrifices everything. In Carry On, rather than glorifying Simon’s situation, it was made very clear how unfair it actually was. Wayward Son shows us the effects that would realistically have on a person and how they would deal with it. I think it’s really important to show an audience of young people that trauma is completely valid and naturally takes time to overcome, rather than just letting the hero move onto their next task without processing anything, like in a lot of typical chosen one stories. Simon’s trauma affects every aspect of his life; his school work, his social life, his friends and his relationship.
Despite everything he’s dealing with, we still get to see Simon carry on with his life, allowing himself to have positive experiences, with the help of Penny and Baz, who decide to take him somewhere new to aid him in rediscovering himself. By the end of the book, he still has a long way to go, but we see significant changes in his attitude towards his life throughout the story. By the end, he’s willing to take the next steps to move on, have his magical appendages removed, find a job and start taking care of himself; something he was struggling with in the beginning of the book.
Instead of the story just focussing on Simon and Baz, our side characters got much more significant plots and character arcs this time around. We got to learn a lot more about Penny and Agatha, and I absolutely loved their character development. We see Penny being much more emotional, whilst continuing to be even more of a badass. We get to witness her recklessly throwing herself into battle in ways we never got to see in Carry On, but heard about many times.
Though she was always a caring and wonderful friend to Simon, Penelope always had a very matter-of-fact view of the world and relationships, which was actively challenged by new experiences and characters in this book. She allowed herself to open up and learn from new people (albeit reluctantly), and we got to see her be emotional and vulnerable, allowing us to see a whole new side to her. Now, we always knew that she was a badass, but Penelope’s boldness knew no bounds in Wayward Son, from committing multiple acts of fraud to vanquishing a horde of vampires whilst looking like a character from a Stephen King novel. She’s an utterly amazing character, I found myself just being completely awestruck by her many times throughout the book, and my love for her has grown by a huge amount.
Both of the girls absolutely stole my heart in this book; from their sweet and soft moments to their awe-inspiring acts of bravery, they held strong beliefs and stood up for themselves even when they were terrified. Wayward Son Agatha and Penny are types of female characters I love to see in fiction, and they blew me away in ways they just didn’t in the first book. In Carry On, I personally didn’t find Agatha to be the most interesting character, but I instantly fell in love with her in Wayward Son. She’s bolder, ultimately less passive and less afraid of getting into trouble. She seems much happier than she was before and has really grown into herself, even accepting her magical side after years of trying to escape it. She acted bravely and boldly when it counted, which is something she has struggled with the entire time we have known her. After being the damsel in distress for so long, she rescued herself and became a hero in her own right.
Baz was another character who had a significantly different role in the group than he had before. With Penny acting more freely and Baz not being fueled by anger and a need for vengeance, he became the responsible mum friend for most of the book, and I personally loved seeing that softer side of him. He was a sweet, caring and comforting friend for Penny who was going through a tough time, and spent most of the book worrying about her and Simon. His and Penelope’s relationship was established later on in Carry On, and we were gifted with a lot of development for that dynamic throughout Wayward Son. He held her while she cried, healed her, stopped her from falling out of a moving car and even allowed her and Simon to see him drink blood for the first time since he'd known them.
I had suspected that Baz had started to see his friends as more like family at this point, and this theory was actually confirmed when he casted a healing spell on Penny that was supposed to only work on family. These soft, platonic moments are much different than any moment he had shared with his friends in the first book, and I was glad to see him finally opening up in the way he did.
As we know, Simon is going through an extremely difficult time, struggling with his own feelings and low self-esteem after losing his powers. He feels weak and useless, not having anything motivating him or making him feel powerful any more. He loses all of his confidence, possibly giving us a glimpse into pre-Watford Simon, who was raised in foster care and struggled to communicate. Seeing this type of lasting trauma portrayed so realistically in fiction is important for those struggling with similar things who need to see that even heroes struggle with what they’ve gone through and they aren’t alone.
Simon’s emotions fluctuate, he has good days and bad days, and that’s completely fine and natural. Going to America on vacation allows Simon to live out his and Penny’s dreams of road tripping in cool cars together and going to festivals, the lively new atmosphere giving him a new lease of life, and he seems happier and more confident for a while. Towards the end of the book, things take a turn for the worst and he’s brought back to reality, reminding us that he still has a lot to work through, and healing takes time. That being said, he manages to come to terms with his new reality and makes the decision to take steps towards building a new life for himself. This is a huge achievement, and it’s important to remind us that life will keep going and we can keep going no matter what we’ve been through.
Understandably, his and Baz’s relationship is strained, because Simon doesn’t think he deserves Baz any more, and Baz just wants Simon. They struggle to communicate and really can’t read each other at all, causing them to misinterpret feelings and not know how to act around each other. This is a natural effect of trauma, and despite it being tough to read, it’s realistic. I found myself frequently getting emotional after their interactions, and it’s a huge contrast to experiencing the excitement of seeing their developing relationship in Carry On. They went through a lot of upsetting and difficult moments in this book, but they both still love each other tremendously and have a lot of learning and healing left to do before they can get to a healthy place together.
Despite what they’re going through, they have some heart-warming moments that really stood out amongst all of the heartache; going to festivals together and having fun, learning to drive, catching fireflies and making out against the convertible. Simon becomes bolder and more affectionate following the rush of a battle, and it’s almost like Carry On Simon and Baz all over again, the kissing, the fighting and the pining. Their contrasting point of views throughout the book were at times funny, frustrating, and really interesting. We can see that they’re both on different pages, and that doesn’t change throughout the book.
Shepard is a new character introduced to the trio during their road trip, and honestly, I immediately loved him. He’s hilarious, ballsy and quite chaotic, which makes him fit in with the group perfectly. He genuinely had some of the funniest moments in the entire book. Despite him making me laugh with his first introduction, I quickly found that I had some issues with the way he viewed magicians, as I felt like he started to talk about them like they were zoo animals to study. That being said, I felt like he contrasted well with Penny, and they both had valid points in their arguments; I found myself going back and forth agreeing with their different points of view. They have a great dynamic and challenge each other’s views in a really interesting way, and I’m really excited to see how things play out in Any Way The Wind Blows. Even though they didn’t get off on a great foot at the start, he’s really resourceful and has helped the group through a lot, he became a great ally to them and I’m looking forward to seeing them all bond even more.
*Spoiler Warning Ahead for the ending of Wayward Son*
Now, in regards to the ending, I found myself questioning Baz’s decisions frequently once they got to Las Vegas. I completely understood why meeting Lamb was a huge deal for him and a big step towards accepting himself, but I found the way he seemed to side with Lamb rather than Simon really surprising. Baz has never hesitated to tell Simon when he thinks he’s being an idiot, but he’s also never been one to stand by whilst someone berates his boyfriend. My first real issue with Lamb was when he referred to Simon as a ‘disfigured magician’, which hurt because we know how much Simon is struggling, and his wings are his last actual connection to magic. Lamb of course didn’t know this, but it must have killed Simon because he’s not a magician any more, so imagine someone telling your boyfriend that you’re disfigured, right in front of you, and your boyfriend says NOTHING. *I* felt upset for Simon in that moment, so the fact that Baz of all people said nothing extremely disappointed me. What happened to the Baz who would defend Simon against absolutely anyone? After all, Simon would have defended Baz, had the roles been reversed.
Another moment that shocked me was when Baz heard the gunshots from the hill, knowing Simon was probably hurt, and took so long to respond. Again, we’ve seen Baz rush in to defend Simon countless times, so what changed? Did he really trust Lamb more than he was worried about Simon? It took him thinking Simon was dead before he realised that Lamb had betrayed them and jumped in to help. For Baz, this is a massive difference in what we’ve seen before, and I really found myself shocked and disappointed with his decisions.
The book ends with the characters escaping, but the tone is less than positive. If there wasn’t going to be a third book, I’d be really upset with the ending. However, the events of Wayward Son perfectly sets up the plot for the upcoming book Any Way The Wind Blows, the third book in the series. The characters may not be in great places, but we still have a third book to resolve everything, with plenty of potential for character development, reconciliations and happy endings. Wayward Son is here to bridge the gap between Carry On and Any Way The Wind Blows, setting up some great conflict for part three of Simon Snow’s story.
Taking the characters to a brand new place allowed us to witness them grow and change in a lot of exciting and complex ways, both negative and positive. As an English person who’s never been to America before, I thought it was really fun seeing America through the eyes of people who were experiencing it for the first time, especially all of their contrasting opinions. Despite the fun change of scenery, I’m really excited to go back to Watford in Any Way The Wind Blows, and hopefully tie up some loose ends from Carry On. Both Carry On and Wayward Son are available to buy from online retailers such as Waterstones, WHSmith’s, DFTBA andThe Bookworm Omaha (as well as in-store). The third book in the series, Any Way the Wind Blows has been confirmed as currently being written, so now’s the perfect time to read Carry On and Wayward Son if you haven’t already!