Published: June 30th 2012
Publisher: Magic Genie Books
Audrey is a normal girl until a face appears in her Crème Brulee. This is the same day that her mother goes missing and her mysterious “cousin”, Sadie, appears at her doorstep. Intuition screams that something is dangerously amiss, and strange occurrences abound, eventually leading up the revelation that she is a witch. At 17-years-old, Audrey has to hone her rare abilities, save her mother, protect herself, and fall in love, all the while keeping her normal sister, Meg, in the dark about everything to do with magic.
This is a Guidebook. The first of many (well, at least two, thus far). She lives in the human world while trying to learn about her witchy abilities in secret. It’s about magic and love-maternal and the boy-crush kind of love. This all happens while going to school and dealing with the high school mean girl, and other everyday girl problems.
My favourite aspect of Audrey is that she is far from perfect. She has many positive aspects: protective, independent, thoughtful, and funny. She also makes mistakes, such as going off on handsome boys about things that have absolutely nothing to do with them. Inside my head I was freaking out, thinking, Audrey! Stop it! Stop it now! She is snarky, cynical, and at times irrational. Her imperfections make her a believable character and someone you can root for. And she is a baker-you can’t go wrong with a witch that bakes.
The characters are far removed from the danger most of the time, as they are not with the central hub of witches. Audrey has to learn how to use magic to defend herself against the antagonist, and Sadie steps in, even though she cannot adequately tap into Audrey’s special abilities. The moment that Sadie arrives, she is cool, confident, and beautiful. Surrounded by animals, she holds answers and more mysteries that she keeps to herself. By far my favourite character here, I adore the mystifying way she handles herself. Her presence kept me wondering throughout the book.
Meg is the little sister who is the foil to Audrey, yet she shares some similarities with Sadie. She is confident, manipulative, ambitious, social, and beautiful. She fronts the suggestively named band Cherry. It sounds like Meg always gets what she wants. However, Meg is a human with no magical abilities. If you do some digging and analyzing, you’ll see that she is arguably the most emotionally complex character in the cast thus far. Not a throw-away character. Not a character that is the “little sister” and nothing more. The family dynamics here are phenomenal.
Personally, I’m tired of heroines being unrealistically heroic or stubbornly buried in denial. Her mother goes missing and she discovers that she is a witch. After some healthy skepticism, she picks up the mantle to go help her mother fight, or rather, fend off, the big bad, knowing that she can’t possibly offer much help. It’s different from Harry Potter-this is the beginning of her new magical life, and she isn’t going to be killing He Who Must Not Be Named because skill wise, she isn’t there yet. Yes, it’s a little depressing to put yourself in her shoes, and it’s refreshingly realistic. It’s about survival and love.
If you read my other reviews, you’ll note that I don’t mind open endings, as long as they don’t end in the middle of something important like a fight or a conversation. Some mysteries left unsolved are fine. In fact, they are awesome if it means that the book will get a sequel and this book does! Even if this book didn’t have a sequel (and I didn’t know it did when I read it), I like thinking about the possibilities that remaining mysteries leave behind. You know, sometimes an author leave these mysteries unsolved intentionally.
I received this book about a year ago, and it is still one of my favourite books, largely, in part, due to the characters, and the way that it is believable. I want more Guidebooks written by Audrey Oliver-it was one of my top three favourites in 2012. I recommend this for a teen book club read as it is relatable without being crass. Yes, it has witchcraft. Good witchcraft! And recipes for chocolate cake and crème brulee! I highly recommend this for girls into the paranormal but are perhaps sick of the overblown paranormal romances that are circulating.