What happens to The Chosen One after the end of the world? – Wayward Son Review
Four years after her first novel about Simon Snow, Rainbow Rowell released a new chapter to the tale of her Chosen One. Wayward Son came out in September of 2019, and the blurb described it as “a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day”. The book didn’t quite live up to this hype because it didn’t give us the look into the chosen one’s mind it promised.
Originally a fan fiction within Rowell’s novel Fangirl, the story of Simon Snow was the fanfiction that Fangirl‘s main character Cath was writing about Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. For legal reasons Rowell couldn’t say that the characters were part of J. K. Rowling‘s wizarding world, and so Simon and Baz were born. Rowell decided to bring her story within a story to print in 2014 with Carry On, the story of the Chosen One defeating his big bad and falling in love with his roommate Baz in the process.
So why is it such a big deal that Wayward Son didn’t live up to the promise on its blurb? Surely it is still a good book, a third instalment in the series has already been confirmed so people must have liked it. And it’s true, lots of fans did like it. It’s got a 4.1/5 on Goodreads and a 4 star review on Google Books. But others like myself were left a bit disappointed with the story we got, and felt let down by the new book.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Before I continue, I want to make something clear; I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved returning to Simon Snow’s world of magic, seeing the characters I loved in the first book growing together. I liked the plot it settled on, I found it exciting and it was just as much a page-turner as Carry On. Even seeing a couple I had celebrated when they first got together fight and have issues was exciting because at least I was seeing them. But that didn’t make up for how disappointed I was that the story I was promised wasn’t delivered.
I’ve read probably more than my fair share of fantasy and adventure books, so it’s safe to say I love a Chosen One plotline. Something I have never read is an after story, looking at the debilitating effect of being a hero who is no longer needed. When I read this new book was about Simon not being able to get off the couch and pushing the people in his life away, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It was set to be a story I had never seen before, and it was one I thought was needed.
Throughout the whole book I was holding my breath for the moment that Simon would have to face that he could no longer just swing a sword at his problems; the moment he realised he had to stop and figure out who he was without his divine destiny to guide him. For the first part of the story we get that; Simon has quit university and now spends his days drinking cider and watching television. His relationship with Baz is crumbling and he is pushing his best friend Penny away. He is jealous of Penny and Baz because they can do magic, while Simon’s magic was sacrificed to save the world. Penny, worried about her friend’s mental state, suggests the three of them take a road trip in America, something Simon has always wanted to do.
The road trip helps Simon at first, and seems to be leading toward a point where he will have to confront how much his life has changed and make an effort to repair his relationships with those he loves. But by chapter 22 of 64 that story is ripped away to focus on killing vampires, and from there the story quickly shifts gears. Suddenly this is a story about humans who found out about the magickal world and are trying to become vampire mages. This new storyline, while exciting, isn’t what the book was supposed to be about. Instead of looking at how hard it is to have massive expectations of greatness thrust upon you at a young age, we get the author allowing her chosen one to play hero once again.
Most disappointingly of all, the end of the book reveals that it was just one big set up to the final book in the series, and so we don’t even get a very satisfying defeat of the antagonist. The whole book feels unfinished, like holding your breath for something that just never comes. It turns out, that’s because it’s merely a setup to a third book. If you want the plotline promised for Wayward Son, you’ll have to wait to read Any Way the Wind Blows. Or maybe not even then.
Ultimately, this book was only disappointing because of the blurb. Cut that out, and you’ve got a solid Chosen One book with a quirky cast of characters and wacky hijinks just crazy enough to keep a reader hooked. So it’s not that it’s a bad book, it just could have been something special. Instead of going into the unknown and looking at difficult, personal issues, it threw that plotline away when it got too hard. And that’s exactly the message not to send. It tells its young adult audience that when things get too tough, you should ignore the problem until it goes away on its own.
The story we were promised would have shown that when you’re in a dark place in life, you need to recognise the problem and seek external support. It would have shown that healing isn’t a five-minute task, it takes time and dedication and it isn’t always pretty. So next time a story wants to ask what happens to the Chosen One after the end of the world, I hope it has the courage to tell the real, imperfect, messy answer.