BY: AGAVNI MEHRABI
The second book of author Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow book series, “Wayward Son,” follows magician friends Simon, Penelope and Baz as they trek across the United States in one hectic summer road trip. The book’s adventure-ridden plot line follows these heroes as they battle bloodthirsty vampires at a Renaissance fair in Nebraska, confront a devil-eyed, talking goat and his skunk co-conspirator somewhere off the border of Colorado and escape a jewelry-obsessed dragon woman within the Rocky Mountains.
This 354-page young adult novel serves as a post-happily-ever-after sequel to the first book in the series, “Carry On”. Simon Snow has already emerged victorious in his battle with what was once the most profound threat to the British World of Mages. He has even fallen in love with his long-time archnemesis, Baz. He has ultimately already saved the world and found his other half all in one volume, arguably attaining all there is to leading a fulfilling life.
Yet, he has also lost all of the magic that once made him who he was. It is this last part that leads him to spiral into a despondency that causes him to question whether he still deserves the title of “Chosen One” and if he is even a worthy boyfriend. His best friend Penelope deems this can only be solved by the distraction of a wild adventure across the western continent.
Although this work of fiction is obviously infused with a great deal of fantasy, the prevalent theme of finding oneself is familiar. Simon spends the book contemplating who he is without one of the biggest pieces to his internal puzzle. Baz faces his own internal dilemma in which he must decide between following the vampire way of life or remaining a loyal magician. Penelope is equally faced with a difficult decision in her romantic life. Soul searching like this truly targets adolescent audiences. Tackling an intense concept like this one, the book also notably does contain instances of crude language that may make it inappropriate for younger audiences.
Another provoking portion of the volume is it calls into question frequently used character archetypes leaned upon by most media. Although its usage of a male British“Chosen One” is a homage to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, its focus on the eventual emotional repercussions of saving the world uncovers unexplored territory on the topic. It also presents Simon’s best friend Penelope as a Hermione Granger-like sidekick, but it adds to the persona by giving the character its own chapters for perspective and infusing it with a spunkier personality. In this way, it both shows the author’s admiration and criticism for the fantasy-adventure genre.
Despite resting on serious ideas, the book retains the same sparkling humour that characterized its spectacular predecessor. Every other page is dotted with witty comments and clever quips that easily encourage laughter.
On the same note, another feature that connects it to “Carry On”is the interesting way that the magical spells are written. While most stories of this type contain spells that are combinations of complex Latin terms, Rowell changes it up by making the most often used phrases the most powerful. For example, the spells like “Lost and found” and “Come out, come out, wherever you are” would cause something to appear out of the blue. Minor adjustments like this one transform the entire series into one that diverges from common books in its genre.
Taking everything into account, “Wayward Son” is a cleverly put-together tale of adventure and romance. Its many noteworthy features grant it a well-deserved position among household titles like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. Most especially, it offers a curiously provoking picture into what happens to beloved protagonists after everything seems to have been already won.