My “Law & Order” obsession is paying off! + Rainbow Rowell’s “Carry On”

Back in the olden times, when cable was only good for reruns, sports, news, and weather, I became obsessed with “Law & Order.” First on regular television, then on cable re-runs.  We’ve established, with my love of “Murder She Wrote,” that I love a formulaic mystery show, so my love of “Law & Order” isn’t hard to understand. Of course, there are crime solvin’ shows that I cannot stand (I never really got into “CSI,” for example), but “Law & Order” is one that  I LOVE.  It began with my crush on Chris Noth’s Mike Logan, and then I fell in love with Jerry Orbach’s Lenny Briscoe in a different way. At some point, I will write an ode to “Law and Order,” but today I want to talk about how this obsession of watching the same episodes over and over and over (thanks to cable television) has paid off for me as the mother of an almost-teenage girl.tumblr_mzk69pNaRL1totytyo2_r1_500

Because, thanks to “Law & Order,” I know how to use formulaic methods to track my 12 year-old’s activities. She’s not all that tricky, but she’s also not very forthcoming. Makes me feel like Lenny. face and all –>>.

Who knew that my “Law & Order” obsession would one day help know my daughter? Silly me – I thought that my obsession with “The Gilmore Girls” would be the TV obsession that paid off! Boy, was I wrong!!!

See, I use the skills I’ve honed watching “Law & Order” to track down the mundane. My daughter is a pretty typical 12 year-old, seventh grade girl. She forgets to tell me things like “I have an after school meeting” or “I have a huge project due on Thursday” until the date is upon us. I learned about the after school meeting when she didn’t come home on the bus. I learned about the project last night, when she told me she needed to skip swim practice (which she rarely wants to do, because she likes it and all her friends are there) to finish this large, looming project.

And then there are the other, less obvious things. Like how she was all emotional earlier in the week. Last weeks detective work uncovered the fact that she and her boyfriend broke up (I had to employ stealth and good detective work a few months ago to learn about the boyfriend, earning me the mom detective Gold Shield, FYI, and getting me out of mommy uniform). Their ‘relationship’ was very ridiculous, their texts much like conversations I used to have over the phone with boys in seventh grade. “What are you doing?” “Nothing. What are you doing?” “Sitting.” “Yea.” “Yep.” “Yep.” “Yep.” Etc., ad. nauseam. But that was last week. So, why was she upset this week? When she left her phone sitting on the counter, I took a moment to look at her Instagram messages. And there it was.

A direct message from an account named I_HATE_UNISSS (our last name is Uniss). Anonymous account. And it was an ugly message. Not explicit, not long, not graphic. Just punch-in-the-gut mean. At my little girl.

She told me she thought it was the ex-boyfriend. (Thank goodness they broke up!) She and her friends seemed handle it all really well. They reported the account to Instagram and it was deleted. But still, it causes a girl to get emotional. And it makes her mom go all red with anger.

Now, really, being a mom-detective isn’t all that hard, at least with my daughter. It’s just following obvious clues. When she gets overly emotional over ridiculous stuff, well, it’s time to investigate. When she hugs us more, or wants to sit in my lap–something’s probably up. When she holes herself up in her room, screaming at her sister if she dares to enter her lair–well, that’s normal. Unfortunately, that’s normal.

And she does give me full access to her phone whenever I want it (which worries me, because what is she deleting?). I don’t access it very often. Everyone gets all up in arms about texting, and, as long as she’s not sending a lot of pics, I don’t get to up in arms. The ridiculousness of her texts are the same ridiculousness of phone conversations I had when I was 12. I can track the number of pictures she sends, and to whom (although I usually don’t). And, if needed, I know the passwords to all her accounts. Rarely do I use them, though, because I want her to have my trust. I just really want to know she’s not texting creeps, and that she’s not getting hate messages. And that she knows what to do if either of these things happens.

So, anyway, there is a reason my mind latched onto “Law & Order” years ago. It was because future me, the mother of a teen (or nearly a teen), would need to channel Lenny Briscoe and his wisecracks, words of wisdom, and wondrous detective work to crack the case of the unforthcoming 12 year old.

I can hope someday that she will start to open up to me, but that may not happen until shes into her 20’s. That’s okay. And she may close ranks even more; she could start to hide technology ‘secrets’ better, which would make my detective job even harder. Right now, as much as she’s closed off, she’s pretty much an open book. I know when to go looking for trouble, because she gives me huge signals.

And, thanks to “Law & Order,” I know HOW to look for trouble. Thank you Max, Mike, Phil, Lenny, Ray, Ed, Joe, Nick, Jessica, Cyrus, and Kevin (all the detectives on the show) and the rest of the cast that taught me all I need to know about detecting and snooping. These are skills that every mom needs, and I feel like mine have been honed. Thanks for helping my obsession pay off.

And, because I love you all, here’s something really funny. A great clip all about “Law & Order.” Thank you, John Mulaney. It’ll be the best five minutes of your day, promise.)

Okay, onto Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On.

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

The Premise

Simon Snow is The Chosen One. He’s the one that is going to save magic and the world of mages from all the bad that’s happening.

If he can get out of his own way, that is.

He’s very powerful, but he’s not very good at magic. He keeps getting snatched from his magic school (Watford), and he’s dangerous to everyone around. His girlfriend (Agatha) is distant, his best friend (Penny) is bossy and very smart, and his roommate (Baz) is a surly vampire as well as his sworn enemy.

Despite all of this, and despite knowing that he probably won’t live very long, Simon carries on, attempting to defeat The Humdrum, the evil nothingness that is killing magic, and has taken his face to do it. Also, there is the war between the old mage guard (of which his best friend and his room mate are a part) and the new, progressive mage guard (of which his guardian, the headmaster and head mage, is part) to decide the direction of magic.

So, it all falls onto Simon Snow’s shoulders. And how it all plays out is surprising, emotional, and fun all at the same time.

My Thoughts

First off, I intentionally have not read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, because I read that this is a stand alone book based on the sub-characters (about whom the main character, a fangirl, spends her time writing) and their fictional world.

And it did stand alone. I now will go back and read Fangirl. I love Rowell, love her YA books as well as her adult novels. She seems to balance her books with love and romance without crossing over into needless talk of teens having tons of sex, drinking, and taking tons of drugs (I know those things happen, it just doesn’t need to be the center of a book, usually).

I liked this book. I bought it in hardback (which I rarely do) just so my daughter would read it (she doesn’t like reading on the Kindle. Whatevs, as the kids say). It was interesting.

I know it was supposed to be, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it is a sort of Harry Potter story, if Harry was a little less brave and smart, and if he roomed with Draco Malfoy instead of Ron.

Just a quick FYI, there is boys dating boys, and it is a main part of the story. There wasn’t any sex, but I just want to put it out there upfront. It’s beautifully done, and I don’t mind (it’s a part of the now and future world people. Get used to it), but there may be readers of my blog who don’t want there kids reading that. For whatever reason.

Anyway, Carry On is full of magical mysteries, but it also holds the requisite amount of teen angst and drama. Politics also plays into the mix, although not overtly (good lesson — the can be a balance between conservative and progressive).

Rowell creates a great cast of characters, and I love a flawed hero, especially one that knows he’s flawed. Simon is a great hero, clueless and brave, just dumb enough to do what needs to be done. Baz is arrogant, but in the way of teens with low self-esteem and very unsure of his place in the world, for a number of reasons.

This book has a balance to it as well, both character and plot driven. The main story arc is carried by plot: the saving of the world of magic. But there is the characters’ stories, and these subplots, which are, in some ways, a better story than the main plot, are very character driven. I don’t want to give it away, so that’s all I’m going to say. Read it, and you’ll understand.

All in all, I give Carry On 4 stars. Interesting and fun. My love for Rowell ‘carries on.’


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