Book Report: Magic or Madness
20 April 2007, 8:31 AM
Well, and Your Humble Blogger has gotten nicely behind in Book Reports again. Which is fine. But it happens that I’ve read some good books lately.
There’s an odd thing about the internet, particularly when an old college buddy (and Gracious Host) is an editor of some influence with a blog. There are a variety of specfic writers who I have a vague sense that I vaguely know, because my old college buddy knows them, and they occasionally comment on his blog, or on one of the blogs I read because the blogger has commented on his blog. And there are a couple of writers who I have exchanged blog comments with on this very Tohu Bohu, even, which again gives me the sense that I kinda sorta am acquainted with them, and some of those writers are clearly friends with (or at least friendly with) other writers who my old college buddy is acquainted with, and the upshot is that there is a friendly circle of specfic writers who wouldn’t know me from Adam who I feel like I kinda sorta know.
So when I saw Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness on the library shelf, my reaction wasn’t so much that book got good reviews as she’ll be enjoying the World Cup. I mean, it’s pretty much perfect for an Australian cricket fan: lots of close matches and upsets, except for Australia routing everyone they meet. With Pakistan and India out early, it’s been unmitigated Australian hegemony. Although I think it’s unfair to make England bat whilst wearing the big shoes, baggy pants and red noses.
Anyway, the book is awfully good as well. It’s very YA, in that the main character is a fifteen-year-old autistic girl, raised by a single mother who is now in a mental institution, who discovers boys and her incredible magic super-powers at the same time. But the point is what she does with the YA business, since after all there is a reason why those YA clichés became so common. They are powerful hooks. Having become clichés, they run the risk of losing that power, but handled right they can work, even all piled up together like that.
The thing I like best, I think, is the way Ms. Larbalestier kept me guessing about the unreliability of her narrators. Not that they were lying, but that they had clearly been lied to. But by whom? Well, it turns out, by everybody. But not in the ways I was expecting. There was creepiness that was genuinely creepy, and there was humor that was genuinely funny. And there was Australian slang that seemed to be genuinely Australian. And there was a heterosexual boy who wanted to design clothes. Lots of fun.
My only complaint, really, is that this is clearly the First Book of a Trilogy, which means that its ending is unsatisfying. Our heroine and her friends escape from, rather than vanquish, evil. It’s not a bad ending, it’s just a first-book-of-a-trilogy ending. And it did its job; I went out and read the second one.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,