Character Driven & Full of Emotion / Carry On, Famous in a Small Town Reviews

You know who’s the Queen of Character driven and emotional books? Rainbow Rowell. And who is the Queen of emotional Contemporary? Emma Mills

And what did I finally get around to reading? Famous in a Small Town AND Carry On. Yes, you’re allowed to congratulate me on reducing my TBR by two lovely books. And actually writing books reviews for said books. *applause*

We can all agree that Rainbow Rowell loves some emotionally driven stories. And I am a fan. #sorrynotsorry

Also, before continuing this review, please acknowledge the fact that I read this the SAME month that I put it on my monthly TBR. *more applause*

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.” 

I really enjoyed Carry On – it was funny, and emotional, and had a weird plot that kept me guessing.

And to everyone who compared it to Harry Potter, let me thunk you over the head. Yes, there’s a magic school. And wands. And that’s about it??? I don’t see why every book for all eternity that had magic and a boarding school is now Harry Potter. Do we call every book that has a love to hate relationship and wit a Pride and Prejudice knock off? Nope, right? So just stop with the Harry Potter snobbery. 

Simon and Baz are both very different narrators and I really like their POV and chapters. I kind of really didn’t like when the other characters narrated. It was just kind of confusing. Two different POVs is GREAT. More than that is hard to follow.

And when it comes to Simon or Baz, Basilton is my new favorite. He’s so funny! Please more Baz in Wayward Son, that’s all I ask.

Now, for the naysayers, yes the start of this book really does read like fan fiction. And if you’ve read either Fangirl or any fan fiction, you’ll appreciate that! I’m a fan fiction aficionado, so I didn’t mind at all. But once Baz literally bursts unto the page, the pace picks up and the story just keeps getting better.

“The whole prophecy is bollocks,” I say. “‘And one will come to end us. And one will bring his fall.’ Did I also bring my own fall?”
“No,” Baz says. “That was me. Obviously.”
“How did you bring my fall? I stopped the Humdrum myself.”
Baz looks back at his phone, bored. “Fell in love, didn’t you?”

I just like how Carry On takes several tropes and turns them on their head. the villain isn’t who it seems. The prophecies are inane and useless. The mage, is well, a power hungry politicians. Kids actually need their mobiles at magic boarding schools. And dragons and vampires are friends.

Other things I loved

MORAL COMPLEXITY – you know how we all idolized Dumbledore and demonized the Malfoy’s and all the other wizards? WHELP that ain’t happening here. in the world of Mages, no one’s perfect. YAY FOR MORALLY GRAY POLITICS.

Penelope! She’s hilarious and a great friend and her mom is my new fav YA mom. Basically Molly Weasley and Hermione combo

Diversity! Seriously, there’s fairies enrolled at this magical school! Yay! And Penny’s family is Half-Indian. And there’s on page gay rep.

Completely Swoon worthy! this whole book is full of tender sweet moment and hate to love feelings and its just heart filling.

Now that I finally picked up and LOVED Carry On, it’s time for me to very eagerly anticipate Wayward Son. I’m here for all that emotional heartbreak and swooning moments. And Penelope, of course.

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

You might know that Foolish hearts is one of my favorite contemporary reads, ever. And when Famous in a Small Town was announced I might have become a tad excited about it. As in I requested it on all the reviewing sites and was devastated when publishers turned me down.

BUT MY LIBRARY FINALLY HAS A COPY and I was the VERY FIRST person to check it out. Congratulations to me and my record breaking skills.

Okay, I don’t think I have as many thoughts on this book PLUS I’ve been on spring break so I’m late posting this review. So a few quick thoughts!

I loved the group of friends in this story! They’re all very different and Emma Mills blossoms at writing friend groups. Can Emma Mills please write me into a cool friend group??? I love the dynamics of these relationships and their small midwestern town.

Sophie is LOVELY! I really enjoyed her ideas for her marching band and how she’s constantly crossing off her college application checklist and babysitting, and caring about her friends.

And that feels like the story? Sophie figuring out how to raise money for her marching band, and managing her friend circle. The romance exists, but the story doesn’t feel like it revolves around romance. It’s more about Sophie growing and coming to terms with her own love for her small town.

Even though the plot isn’t too involved, I do love reading an Emma Mills book. Everything feels real, from the Ice cream shop with 14 flavors to the dilapidated old house. It’s all real and has such a homey feeling. 

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Okay, congrats to me for writing reviews for books I actually read this month! *highfive* Also, I just finished reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and do I have the courage to write a book review????

That book was a BRICK — 800+ pages! A massive read. BUT I FINISHED IT! to write a review or not???

lets chat

Have you read much of Rainbow Rowell or Emma Mills? Are you a fan of character driven stories?

Would you rather a writer focus on an emotional journey or the overall plot? How do you write a review for an 800 page book? advice needed, thanks. 



  1. March 23, 2019 / 8:34 pm

    Great post, Elizabeth! I haven’t yet read Famous in a Small Town but loved Carry On!

  2. March 24, 2019 / 2:47 pm

    Lovely reviews, Elizabeth! I have read and really enjoyed Famous In A Small Town, I feel like Emma Mills really knows how to write contemporaries with characters that FEEL real and incredible friendships group and I adore that so, so, so much about her stories <3

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:02 pm

      Ah, thank you, Marie! I love reading Emma Mills friend groups, they seem so real and lovely!

  3. March 24, 2019 / 7:34 pm

    I have actually read all of Emma Mills’ books, and one day I am totally planning on writing one of those lists of authors’ books, ranked in the list-maker’s opinion. I know, the friend groups in her books! And CONGRATS on being the first person to check the book out. :)) Also, the plot twist, am I right? Ohh, I have The Priory of the Orange Tree on hold at my library right now. If you decide to write a review on it, I’m excited for it!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:03 pm

      Ah, I want to read your ranking! I want to read This Adventure Ends soon! And I’m still waffling about a Priory review, it’s so daunting and I am having a lot of trouble deciding what to think about the entire book, haha!

      • March 31, 2019 / 12:45 pm

        Okay, here’s a quick rundown of how I would rank them as of right now: 1. Foolish Hearts 2. First & Then (but I read this one a long time ago, so I would have to reread it if I was going to say for sure) 3. Famous in a Small Town 4. This Adventure Ends. I didn’t really like This Adventure Ends, but I hope you enjoy it!! That completely makes sense, it’s huge!

  4. March 25, 2019 / 3:05 pm

    Great reviews! I haven’t read either of these books but Famous in a Small Town sounds good!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:04 pm

      Thanks, Jenn! I think you’d really enjoy Famous in a Small Town!

  5. March 26, 2019 / 10:02 pm

    Ahh, this is a great post! I’m so happy you wrote it because both of these are books I’ve been wanting to read really soon. 🙂 I’m so excited for Carry On, and glad to think you didn’t think it was too similar to Harry Potter?? I saw people saying that, but I didn’t know in what respect it was “similar,” I’m glad to hear it was just because it was a magical boarding school. XD I also can’t wait to read Famous in a Small Town because Emma Mills is, well, utterly amazing.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:04 pm

      Oh, I hope you get to read Carry On, I think you’d love it! And yes, Emma Mills is utterly amazing 😊

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