Review: Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier (2005)

Magic or Madness cover Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
Publication: Razorbill (2006), Paperback, 304 pages / ISBN 1595140700
Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA
Rating: 2/5
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Challenge: 666 Horror/Paranormal Book Challenge (#1)

Okay, here’s the thing. I kinda hate this book, and yet it was so easy to read and had just enough good things in it that I managed to read it all in one day. (I suspect that this is kinda what happens to people who read the Twilight books?) Anyway.

Magic or Madness is about Reason Cansino, a teenage girl who doesn’t believe in magic but does believe in the power of math and science. But when her mother goes mad and Reason is sent to live with her “evil witch” grandmother, Reason soon finds out that things aren’t as simple and non-magical as she likes to think they are.

I had a lot of problems with this book. The basic idea behind it was excellent and something that I could potentially love, but the little details surrounding it just drove me up the wall. Not the writing itself– that was engaging and actually well done. The first few chapters were so good it kept me reading through the rest of it. It’s just that I pretty much hated all the characters. There’s three narrators: Reason, Jay-Tee (a runaway who lives in NYC), and Tom (who lives next door to Reason’s grandmother). Tom’s the only one who I got along with. He’s stable and caring and though he might be a little naive, we got along fine.

Reason and Jay-Tee, on the other hand, are so sheltered and dumb about other cultures it’s ridiculous! With Reason it’s somewhat believable, because she’s spent the majority of her life living out in the bush with her mother, not making friends or going into any big cities. Her culture shock is probably normal. But Jay-Tee lives in New York City! Hello! Lots of different cultures there, all combined! I would think that she’d be used to people who weren’t native to NYC. It drove me up the wall that both of them were just wandering around in a big cloud of culture clash for the entire book. Sheesh! This was my biggest problem with the book, and I pretty much obsessed over it the entire time I was reading it. I just don’t think kids are that naive today (unless they’re bush-people, maybe), especially if they live in NYC, y’know?

Besides that, I was also annoyed that practically no answers were given regarding magic and Reason’s connection to it. Some were, yes, but there’s still a lot left unanswered. I suppose the solution will be in the next two books, but I don’t know if I care enough to read them and find out.

So, yeah. Didn’t really like this book, still finished it. Oh well.

Other reviews: Malcolm Tredinnick at Defying Classification | Kim L. at Bold. Blue. Adventure

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