Book Review: Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa
A witchy, atmospheric lesbian contemporary romance set in Salem—from the acclaimed author of Fans of the Impossible Life. Perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Becky Albertalli.
Seventeen-year-old Eleanor is the last person in Salem to believe in witchcraft—or think that her life could be transformed by mysterious forces. After losing her best friend and first love, Chloe, Eleanor has spent the past year in a haze, vowing to stay away from anything resembling romance.
But when a handwritten guide to tarot arrives in the mail at the witchy souvenir store where Eleanor works, it seems to bring with it the message that magic is about to enter her life. Cynical Eleanor is quick to dismiss this promise, until real-life witch Pix shows up with an unusual invitation. Inspired by the magic and mystery of the tarot, Eleanor decides to open herself up to Pix and her coven of witches, and even to the possibility of a new romance.
But Eleanor’s complicated history continues to haunt her. She will have to reckon with the old ghosts that threaten to destroy everything, even her chance at new love.
Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches is a romantic coming-of-age about learning to make peace with the past in order to accept the beauty of the present.
Here’s the thing about having an anxiety disorder with panic attacks: sometimes, when my brain gets out of whack, I get stuck in panic mode and literally cannot settle down or focus or do anything. It doesn’t happen often, where it’s this bad, but this week it did. I hadn’t been able to sleep, which threw off my whole routines, and routines are what keep me functioning, so it all spiraled. I’m telling you this because I had started this book, loved it, then gone into shutdown mode for like 30 hours where all I could do was snuggle my dogs in bed and watch Superstore. I was annoyed because I really wanted to finish this book. And as soon as my brain quieted down and I felt what is “normal” for me, I burned through the rest of it.
This book was a total delight. Eleanor is not looking for new friends or a new girlfriend or really anything other than to be left alone and survive her day-to-day life in Salem. After some frustrating and tragic events in her life, she left high school, got her GED, and just tries to avoid everyone from her past. She works in a witchy store for her mom’s best friend, gets high, and tries to help out with things for her mom, who has chronic health issues thanks to Lyme disease. None of it’s ideal, but it’s fine. It’s whatever. Eleanor figures everyone hates her and she’s just used to it.
Enter Pix. She invites Eleanor to start hanging out with her coven, and seems to be into Eleanor, something Eleanor finds hard to believe. Through Pix and her friends, cynical Eleanor begins to stretch a little out of her comfort zone, even finally addressing some of what happened in the past. But when a revelation about just exactly how Pix came into her life becomes clear, Eleanor feels betrayed.
I loved the voice in this book. Scelsa also keeps us moving around, with the present, moments from the past, and bits and pieces about tarot. The cast is diverse and mostly queer and the setting of Salem comes to life as Eleanor, Pix, and friends go about their lives there. Readers will fly through this look at toxic relationships, guilt, love, growth, and moving on. Great read.
Review copy (hardcover) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/31/2022
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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