It’s time to flail over another fabulous Aussie YA author!
Whom I love. Her first two books, Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, are two of my ultimate Aussie YA favourites. Probably because they were about writers and people who like cupcakes. #RELATABLE So I had high expectations for The Secret Science of Magic. And while it was a great book, it did fail for me in several aspects. I was pretty confused as to (A) the characters’ reasonings and motivations, and (B) exactly what the book was trying to say. It just felt like it didn’t quite get there.
But like it was super enjoyable and I LOVED the characters and the dialogue. Plus it’s about a dorky magician boy and an academically genius math girl. And I laughed quite a lot at the levels of adorkable nerdiness. So a win.
- Absolutely super cute dual-narrating protagonists
- Sophia is of Sri Lankan descent
- Such super cute and fantastic sibling relationships
- Joshua had a lisp
- Magical card tricks which are actually my favourite and I’ve been teaching myself some from youtube and I’m OBVIOUSLY A PRO AT IT AFTER TWO TRICKS
- Excellent and engaging writing.
- The kind of wondrous banter that had me snickering appreciatively.
- CAMEOS!!!! The absolute best cameos ever from Sam and Camilla from Life In Outer Space. I fully admit to grinning like an INSANE DORK when they came on the scene and I 100% need to reread LIOS.
- Great female friendships!!
There were a few things that bothered me however.
Namely: (1) the fact that I really didn’t understand a lot of what the book WAS TRYING TO SAYYYYYY. Which could be on me and not the book?! And (2) it seemed painfully obvious that Sophia was on the Autism spectrum but the book didn’t talk about it. At all.
I guess a lot of people are anti-labels or perhaps the author didn’t want to talk about Autism in case of misrepresenting it?? These are things I UNDERSTAND. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of ASD erasure? Especially when at the end, everyone just says that Sophia has social anxiety + is just super smart. The end. NO NOT REALLY???? I almost feel like the book didn’t know how to fully write a correct and complex ASD person, so it just used part of the symptoms (ie: inability to understand facial expressions, precociously smart at a young age, social ineptitude, high anxiety, and inability to understand sarcasm), ditched the other (lesser stereotyped) parts and wouldn’t mention the word at all. It’s possibly I am wildly misinterpreting this of course. But I think it’s sad that Sophia was criticised for things she could. not. help by family and friends…when understand, a diagnosis, and tALKING about it (or even therapy) would’ve made the world of difference. The book said different is good, but it also kind of went with “but you don’t need help, just love yourself!” when Sophia CLEARLY needed help AS WELL. Asking for help is not a failure. She was so miserable and needed to understand herself + have family understand her. It was all very…depressing to me???
Buuuuut again: maybe the author never intended for her to be on the Autism spectrum.
Apparently Joshua wanted to “save” Sophia??? WOAH. When was that there?!? He had a crush on her that he just obsessed over, but I never got the impression that he was in love with her to “change her”. I thought he JUST HAD A CRUSH. And then at the end he’s apologising for all this stuff that I did. not. see. on. the. page. at. all. It bothers me?!
There’s also instalove and NO parents in the storyline at all. Josh’s storyline couldn’t exist without his infatuation over Sophia which made him kind of bland at the end. And Sophia had more chapters!! That’s not fair!! And I’m still not sure what the messages were because they all felt so mixed. Be different. But only sometimes?! If you can’t relate to others, you should apologise for it?!? And I don’t know if it was saying academia is pointless or good?? School is a waste of time or possibly helpful?? Don’t be alone but DO be alone if you want. I think the book is having an existential crisis and NOW I AM TOO.
Don’t get me wrong though: I really did enjoy this book!
I loved the writing and the diversity and the cast of adorable and loveable characters! I adored Josh and his intense levels of DORK and his sharply scary little sister was the best thing. I loved the romance at first and how it was all secret card tricks and magical folded roses! And it asks that question all teens ask: WHAT THE HEEECK DO I DOOOOO AFTER HIGHSCHOOL. #relatable
Plus any book that says that different is good and you don’t need to change that, is obviously smart.
THANK YOU TO HARDIE GRANG EGMONT FOR THE ARC. The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil was published April, 2017.
Sophia is smart, like genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?
Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius?
In life and love, timing is everything.