Here’s a light-hearted twist on the classic magic school story. It’s nominated for this year’s Cybils award, and this post reflects my own opinion, not that of the committee.
by Lee Edward Födi
Read from a library copy.
Cara Moone is here to tell you that magic school is not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, she’s gotten a scholarship to a secret magic school near Seattle – but she’s stuck in the MOP track – Magical Occurence Purger – aka one of the failures who’s destined to go around sweeping up the magical residue left over from the real wizards’ spells before it gathers itself up and turns rogue. She doesn’t get to take spell or potion classes, is constantly being given detention and her formerly close roommate, Yuna, now struggles to talk to her. Cara definitely feels like she’s gotten the short end of the stick, even if she gets to hang out with Zuki, a fluffy white and very vain young nine-tailed fox (though he’s only grown three tails so far.) Cara can only look enviously at Harlee Wu, whose magic skills are so advanced that people call her the Chosen One and she wins the best wizard awards every year.
Then, after Harlee’s most recent giant spell exhibition, Cara spots a giant, dripping black mouth in the ceiling of the stage above her. It’s something that a lowly MOP should ask for wizard assistance with – but seeing as she’s up in the flies of the stage, she can’t exactly ask for it. And of course, due to her poor reputation at the school, no one will believe she really saw it. But Cara is convinced that Harlee has something to do with it, and is determined to solve the mystery on her own.
Meanwhile, on her few visits back home, her once super-supportive older sister, Su, is now harsh and uncommunicative, with a scummy boyfriend. As magic gets more and more out of control both inside and outside the school, Cara really wishes she could confide in her sister. At the same time, Harlee, Cara, and her fellow MOP trainees are sent to clean up increasingly large messes. Will they be able to fix whatever is breaking the magic? And will she be able to fix her relationships – with her sister, her roommate, Harlee?
Cara starts off very negative about just about everything, externalizing the blame for everything from her placement in the MOP program to how often she gets in trouble with her teachers. This could have been really irritating, but Cara has such a fun, sarcastic sense of humor, I really enjoyed spending time with her, watching her grow and get immersed in her many adventures and meet magical creatures. I haven’t gotten into much of the adventures, but we’ll just say that magical disaster clean-up often happens mid-disaster, not just post-disaster, so there’s plenty of opportunity for hijinks. Give this to kids who dream of magic school and fans of Star Trek’s Lower Decks.
An unusual take on the magic school trope, sounds fun! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by, Valinora!
I also liked how Födi is able to pull off Cara’s negativity in a way that isn’t too dreary to read about and is also realistic to how a kid might feel/behave in her situation!
Yes! That kind of negativity is really typical for kids her age, but also such an easy turn-off to the character.