Ah, Labor Day weekend. I’d like the pumpkin spice to stay off my beach! I was aware of the pumpkin switchover on Aug 19 and I wasn’t happy about it.
School always starts in public school in New York after Labor Day, so I might be at the beach this weekend but I’ll still be loading my kid on the bus on Wednesday. Not holding a pumpkin coffee because I’m not ready.
In honor of returning to school this week in my neck of the woods, I’m posting on books set in school. And not just any school: Magical school.
I think I would still love the idea of magic schools even if I hadn’t read through Harry Potter twice already. I love school, and magic lends itself well to academia. There are old practitioners, theories, kids coming into their powers and discovering who they are. There is something cozy about lectures as it gets cold, hours of study time as the darkness closes in early, and then the freedom at the end of an academic year as the warm weather and light start. And the genuine satisfaction from learning. Yeah, nerd, but I’m still cool.
Other than being in school with superpowers, these books both had good character arcs.
It should surprise no one that I read the following books when I needed a diversion this summer from the difficult topics from my challenge reading.
Magic for Liars, Sarah Gailey
A PI with a twin sister who inherited magical powers that she did not is hired to investigate a murder at the very school for magical children where her sister teaches. The sisters share the trauma of their mother’s death but they are distant from one another when connection would have helped them both through the trauma. The PI struggles with connection to anyone on any kind of ongoing basis and coming to solve the murder offers the sisters a second chance.
As suggested in my synopsis, this book was more about sisters than it was about magic. Magic created the rift between them and the insecurity the PI feels at walking among the magical without being magical herself. You can just feel her growth as a character from isolated and insecure into someone more connected and just more alive, leaving some of her own darkness behind in the process. This was one of those books with astute observations of human nature and events, darkness and isolation that can grow in our souls. The twist is appreciable. Even though it was heavy in some of its themes, it was diverting, a lovely debut novel.
I accidentally pre-ordered this but decided it was predestined and didn’t cancel the order. And I want to keep up on newer books that interest me, as I still haven’t read Washington Black, Children of Blood and Bone, There There, and The Power from last year when I was frantically noveling. And then when it came in, I diverged from Ayiti to absorb this instead to take a break from the intensity. I regret nothing.
School for Psychics, K.C.Archer
A young adult who is lost in her personal life is recruited to attend a school for psychics, where she learns her origins (she is adopted) and uncovers a plot between two rivaling groups of psychics.
This is less school-y than Magic for Liars. It is about attending school, but it is more of an adult novel than it is YA. It’s sexual themes as well as the ages of the characters, some of them already having had professional jobs. It felt YA at times because it had to do with schools of characters discovering their abilities, but it wandered away from the school part and into the practical uses of these talents. It was like, yea, there’s school, but also students are called in to work on crimes and real world things before they have graduated. They are thrown into the concerns and machinations of the government and the adult world rather than merely tensions and a plot that is entirely based on school.
Also, the main character is working on deep seated trust issues, and I felt that the author does this well. There is a high stakes plot, but like in Magic for Liars, it is about connection and deciding to work as a team rather than being an independent operator as part of the protagonist’s change. The only part of the character creation that was not consistent was the fact that she had supportive parents and always had. Usually her level of distrust and inability to work as a team in the beginning comes from a more difficult childhood than she appears to have had. Both when she was with her biological parents and after, it appears that she was pretty well supported emotionally. That she wouldn’t develop trust issues because she was pretty safe. She was adopted, and this can create trust issues, but it doesn’t always when done right. However, this book is clearly a setup for a series, so maybe we will learn more of the protagonist’s darkness as it goes.
This one came into my life as an audible deal of the day. These magic books just find their way to me. It reminds me of the novel I am trying to get into the world myself, the one that I wrote. It doesn’t have the same adult themes, but it deals with discovering nefarious plots not immediately evident. And hopefully because the character arc is awesome!
Stay tuned for the second week of school books just to get us (me) in the academic/fall mood. Because I need it! I like peppermint more as a seasonal flavor but I will submit to the pumpkin once a season or so, just to remember that once upon a time I liked fall.