This month's book pick is ORDINARY MAGIC by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. I'm cheating a little, since it's technically upper-middle grade rather than YA (a 12-year-old protagonist), but I liked the book so much I wanted to spotlight it anyway!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an “Ord”—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society.
The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!
First Line: "The day of my Judging dawned bright and clear and hot."
Like so many of the books we feature for Book Picks, this one has a great first line. We immediately want to know what a Judging is (and why it's important enough to be capitalized).
I heard this book talked about as "a reverse Harry Potter," and I think that's an apt description! The author turns the fantasy trope of the chosen one on its head by making the main character the only one around who wasn't chosen. This makes for a refreshingly different story.
A huge highlight for me was Abby's large, extremely close family. This is another way this book is the opposite of Harry Potter--when her family finds out she doesn't have any magic, they rally around her and protect her fiercely rather than casting her out or being ashamed. Since it's common for middle grade and young adult books to feature dysfunctional families, reading about a supportive and loving one was a nice change of pace.
Notes for Writers:
Although this is billed as a MG novel, I think it almost works as young YA. Some of the scenes are very scary (especially one with a goblin attack!), which I would have loved when I was twelve or thirteen. The author does an excellent job of balancing issues that would matter to the younger set (family, making new friends) with older ones (living apart from your parents for the first time, a budding romance).
A Good Read For:
Anyone writing books that fit into the space between funny middle grade and dark YA. This book expertly blends elements of both.