Review of MAJIX by Douglas Rees
NOTES FROM A SERIOUS TEEN WITCH
Harlequin, July 2010
Susan (Kestrel) Murphy's life is not going well. Her father had a heart attack and now she's being sent to live with his sister, her mother spends her life shopping, and when she arrives at Richard Milhous Nixon High School, she's an outcast because of her witchcraft. She can't even smoke because her aunt Ariel, who's also a witch, cast a spell on her the first time she lit up.
Because she refuses to wear the school uniform (her aunt backs up her claim that their religion requires Kestrel to wear all black), she quickly becomes a least-favorite with the school principal. The popular girls shun her, and someone even breaks into her locker. It's enough to make a witch turn to black magic. After all, who wants to be in sympathy with a universe that's this perverse?
Kestrel struggles to make sense of her world and hold onto her beliefs. Fortunately, Aunt Ariel, whom Kestrel initially dismissed as a goodie-goodie witch, is very supportive and very happy to teach Kestrel how to take a step back from the universe to see things from another angle. And seeing the universe from another angle is definitely what it takes for Kestrel to find her own place in the school and the world.
Author Douglas Rees writes an enjoyable story with multiple levels of meaning. I'd hesitate to call MAJIX 'magical realism,' but the magic is subtle. Because Kestrel is learning how to work with the universe, it's never clear whether what's happening is related to her witchcraft at all (although she's never in doubt) or whether things are just happening. But the lessons of stepping back, of trying to see reality from a different angle, and of course, of the challenges of fitting in to a strange environment (and high school is certainly one of the strangest environments) are universal. Over the course of the story, Kestrel grows from a self-absorbed child to a young woman who can make friends, lead a group, and stand up for what's right.
You won't find vampires, shapeshifters, or zombies in this story but, as Kestrel learns, sometimes the most magical things are those that don't involve flashy effects. MAJIX is targeted at the teen/young adult reader but older readers may also enjoy Kestrel's struggles, triumphs, and disasters.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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