By Douglas Rees,
Harlequin Teen (http://www.eharlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=21776)
Publication date: July 1, 2010
E-ARC provided by Harlequin Teen with the option of blogger to review
Appearing in www.fangswandsandfairydust.com on July 27, 2010
Reviewed by Stephanie
Kestrel (don't call her Susan) Murphy is angry. Forced to leave her posh San Francisco Bay Area home by her father's illness, she's living in Jurupa (sounds like vomiting), Southern California. It's too hot. The people are stupid. And you have to chew the air to get the oxygen out of it. On the plus side, Kestrel is a witch. Well, a witch-in-training. And she's going acquire the magic she needs to get her life back to normal. At first, she barely notices the people around her-Aunt Ariel, who's taken her in and is herself a well-known white witch; Jose Iturrigaray, the quiet, talented young artist; Blake Cump, troublemaker extraordinaire; Laura Greenwood, who wants to be Kestrel's friend. But life has its own magic, and gradually Kestrel finds that much of one's success as a witch lies in being open to it.
I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I usually read adult or Older YA and this probably at the youngest of the Young Adult range. At the beginning of the tale, told by the accomplished author Doug Rees, Susan, comes off as everyone’s worst teen nightmare attitudinally; she is not promiscuous, or addicted, but she is spoiled, bratty and self-centered. Her parents are also self-involved. Kestrel also believes she is a witch, mostly, I surmise because her friend was and at 14 we all want to imitate our peers. Studying the craft and Wicca isn’t a bad path to follow, but her parents are not happy about it. Her dad has a heart attack and other than some poor life style choices the believe stress will be a bock to his recovery. The doctor recommends they off load Kestrel to lessen household stress. So, Kestrel is sent off to her Aunt Ariel, not only a witch but a pretty well-known writer on the craft..
At first Kestrel reacts with the usual teenage “whatever-i-ness” but as her Aunt goes out on a limb for her with an idiotic school-administration and gently helps her see the universe differently, Kestrel begins to transform into a “serious witch.” She and two friends, with great families, stop expecting the universe to give them stuff and begin to earn how to flow with the universe. Like the song goes, “You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”
Rees may lay the teen voice on a bit heavily. The book is first-person/journal entries, so I doubt the written voice would be as teen as the spoken voice. Sometimes it can get in the way. As Kestrel matures, the voice does ease up a bit. She starts to sound sincere. I think a teen would see it as a bogus device and perhaps scoff at it.
Ariel, is a great Aunt, I want one of her! She helps Kestrel get through this time in a town and school foreign to her. I like the relationship the two develop. Ariel’s character is not created outside her interaction with Kestrel. Kestrel’s friends are great but they are fleshed out more as a family.
This is not so much a story about magic or the craft as it is a coming of age story. One kiss between teens; a budding relationship between her aunt and her friend Jose’s brother don’t require caution for a parent. Persons who believe all witchcraft is Satanism should stay clear as their beliefs may be challenged. Other wise, it is great for younger teens (esp. girls) and their folks. Older teens may find it unsophisticated with obvious morals. Parents would enjoy it and wish that every child had an aunt like Ariel.