Andromeda Klein

Andromeda Klein

3.7 8
by Frank Portman

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Andromeda Klein is a quiet, booky girl with an unexciting life. Until her world takes a turn for the weird. Strangely and suddenly Andromeda’s tarot card readings have begun to predict events with bizarrely literal accuracy. It seems impossible, but it looks like her once-upon-a-time-partner-inoccultism, Daisy Wasserstrom, has begun to harass her. Which wouldn’t be… See more details below


Andromeda Klein is a quiet, booky girl with an unexciting life. Until her world takes a turn for the weird. Strangely and suddenly Andromeda’s tarot card readings have begun to predict events with bizarrely literal accuracy. It seems impossible, but it looks like her once-upon-a-time-partner-inoccultism, Daisy Wasserstrom, has begun to harass her. Which wouldn’t be quite as strange if Daisy hadn’t died the year before. But what is weird is getting arguably worse. Omens, dreams, cards hidden inside a hollowed out book, and images from a file of comics drawn by a previous inhabitant of her family’s suburban duplex are all coming together to contain hints of buried truths concerning her family, her circle of “friends,” her cat, and her secret, estranged, much older and forbidden boyfriend-in-theory. And as Andromeda tries to figure it all out, she finds herself in a whole world of creepy you couldn’t even begin to make...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Portman's second novel (after King Dork) offers the story of Andromeda Klein, a tarot and occult–obsessed loner contending with typical teenage challenges—a cruel social order, being summarily dumped by her crush—as well as with the recent death of her best friend, Daisy; the possibility that her occult practices are having real-world consequences; and her library's decision to purge its shelves of little-read books that happen to be her favorites. Andromeda is also hard of hearing, and her ongoing misinterpretations give the book its appealing, idiosyncratic voice and unique lexicon (discombobulated becomes “action-populated,” and “bacon” means pagan). Portman's depiction of Andromeda's struggles in her claustrophobic world is skilled and affectionate; despite her strangeness, readers will identify with her feelings of isolation. The frequent references to the occult make for a slow, intricate and arcane journey and are likely to limit the book's audience. However, those up for the challenge will find plenty of food for thought. As Portman writes, “Most magical writing is deliberately obscure, designed to hide crucial matters from the uninitiated yet reveal them to those who know how to read the texts properly.” Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Since her occult partner, Daisy, died, Andromeda Klein's "weedgie-ness" has been more active than ever: she sees tarot signs everywhere, speaks with the mystical King of Sacramento, and is visited by her holy guardian angel. Between hunting for Daisy's tarot deck and saving the public library's occult collection, Andromeda is also dealing with her failed relationship with mysterious, older St. Steve, though there's a new boy vying for her affections. She also has people after her to tell their futures even as her mother is texting her constant critiques of her behavior. Unfortunately, readers who are not deeply immersed or interested in occultism will become bored with the author's laborious documentation of pagan ritual and practices; these huge swaths of text strangle the narrative's forward momentum. Portman creates an inwardly focused narrative, creating a disjointed yet vivid portrait of Andromeda: his focus on her leaves the secondary characters languishing for attention. The narrative thread is difficult to follow, as the teen addresses a variety of issues, from censorship to friendship to parental involvement. Andromeda's creative lexicon, a product of both her medical condition, osteogenesis imperfecta, and T9 keypad texting mistakes, is initially confusing, then momentarily interesting, and final grows tiresome.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A disappointing second outing from the author of King Dork (2006) introduces Andromeda Klein, teenage occultist. Hearing-impaired Andromeda enjoys reading tarot, planning her future masterpiece, Liber K, and studying the magic she calls ouijanesse. Once, Andromeda had an excellent older boyfriend (St. Steve) and a partner in the occult (the Most Holy Soror Daisy Wasserstein). But since St. Steve's disappearance and Daisy's death from leukemia, Andromeda's been alone. Andromeda is a compelling character, whose reclaiming of misheard words and misspelled text messages gives her unique and likable flavor. It's Andromeda's story that suffers, a low-action, pensive outing from an unreliable narrator. Andromeda's discoveries move slowly; while there are many narrative mysteries for readers, the occult mystery Andromeda tries to solve is extremely difficult to follow. For readers who are occult fans, this quirky text will be a self-satisfied joy; for others, an unreadable morass. Alas, the conclusion (satisfying but easy, with a frustrating and unnecessary near-magical disability cure) is a rush job after hundreds of pages of meandering magickal confusion. (Supernatural. 12-14)
From the Publisher
Praise for Andromeda Klein:

[STAR] "With impish prose and ridiculously researched detail, Portman fully fleshes a one-of-a-kind character."-Booklist, Starred

"Andromeda is a compelling character...[with] unique and likable flavor."-Kirkus Reviews

"Portman's depiction of Andromeda's struggles in her claustrophobic world is skilled and affectionate...[readers] will find plenty of food for thought."-Publishers Weekly

"A vivid portrait of Andromeda...the teen addresses a variety of issues, from censorhsip to frienship to parental involvemnt."-School Library Journal

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.56(w) x 5.86(h) x 1.41(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Universe is huge. The Universe is complex. Everything in it is connected to everything else. And it knows who you are and sometimes wants to show you things.

Andromeda Klein's front wheel sliced through a shallow puddle, spattering yet more mud on her boot ankle, glazing the grassy embankment on the left side of the bike path.

"Trismegistus," she said under her breath, invoking the Egyptian god Thoth, lord of language and magic, and, if the theories of Mrs. John King van Rensselaer were to be believed, the god upon whose ancient temple at Hermopolis the book now known as the tarot was based. This oath, an expression of frustration, had nothing to do with the puddle or the boots: muddy boots are nothing but bad-ass. It was rather an offhand, grumpy plea for insight, for clarity. And the answer came almost immediately into view: a discarded half-crushed Styrofoam take-out box floating in a flooded storm drain had two plastic knives lying crossed on top of it.

"Okay, I get it," she muttered. The Two of Swords. She had drawn it from her tarot deck in the girls' bathroom before leaving school that day, and here it was again floating in the gutter. And with a box, to boot. Sometimes the Universe was subtle; other times it hit you over the head like it thought you were stupid.

One dream, one card, an otherworldly instant message, and dozens of synchs involving swords, boxes, and the vexing case of Twice Holy Soror Daisy Wasserstrom: it had been an unusually weedgie week. She rose from the seat to pedal up the hill.

The Universe, continued the silent lecture in her head, chooses to show itself in tiny flashes, revealing connections amongst its diverse elements at odd moments. Coincidence! say the unobservant or the spiritually obtuse, when they notice them at all. And such they are: points where aspects of reality coincide, or overlap, from this or that perspective. But educated people, adepts and scholars, seers and magicians—the weedgie people—know them as synchs, since the common understanding of coincidence implies something accidental, and there are no accidents.

"So what do you think would happen, Dave," Andromeda continued, out loud now, practicing a well-rehearsed portion of her tarot lecture, "to an adept armed with a perfect model of the Universe?" Dave Klein was Andromeda's cat, upon whom she often practiced her orations, and to whom she tended to address them without regard to his physical presence. He was a tough audience, either way. And his steely stare would, she imagined, prepare her for the hostile response of many of her students, when, far in the future, she would deliver her notorious series of lectures on magic theory and practice in a hidden underground hall in the secret labyrinth beneath the Warburg Institute in London.

The answer, was, of course, that such a model of the Universe in the hands of the skilled adept became a laboratory for generating and observing synchs at several times their naturally occurring rate. In the ancient Temple of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus—itself a compact model of the Universe—magicians cast rods or arrows on the central altar and noted the results, which temple symbols they pointed to and in what number, teasing out the significant synchs and interpreting them. The modern tarot pack was in a sense a portable temple. Shuffling and laying out the cards invited such synchs, grand and trivial, though interpreting them was never a straightforward matter.

That was Andromeda Klein's best, simplest answer for why and how the tarot "worked," aware though she was that her views on the matter were controversial. The tarot was a collapsible temple, a laboratory, a synch factory. If anyone ever bothered to ask, she would be ready. And this answer would figure prominently in her Warburg lectures, to be published in volumes III through IV of her soon-to-be-celebrated, as-yet-unwritten work of magical history, theory, and practice, Liber K.

The main road in front of the school parking lot had no bike lane. This period immediately after school let out was perilous. It was impossible to know for certain which _after-school clusters of students would be overtly hostile, but it was wise to avoid them all, just in case. This required a zigzag pattern, crossing from one side of the street to the other as necessary. They could throw rocks at you or even thrust a stick through your spokes to knock you off your bike, and then . . . well, it had never happened to her, but she'd seen it happen to others, and she didn't want to find out what they would do next. A few kids yelled at her unintelligibly at she zipped past, or at least, she was pretty sure she was the one they were yelling at. Some unpleasant variation on her name, perhaps, or the perennial favorite "No-Ass." It was nice of them to take the time to bring it to her attention, but Andromeda Klein, as it happened, needed no reminder of that particular deficiency. She was well aware.

Andromeda Klein sliced through yet another shallow puddle and whisper-shouted "A.E.!" It is probable that she was the only student at Clearview High School, and perhaps the only person in Clearview itself, who had a favorite _nineteenth-_century occultist; and of those anywhere in the world to whom it might have occurred to make such a list, it is doubtful that many would have put A.E. first. But A. E. Waite, the gentle, sad-eyed, reluctant magician, was one of Andromeda Klein's heroes. In his own way, he was as misunderstood as the very misunderstood Mr. Crowley, who owed quite a lot to A.E.'s direction and influence, yet who had, as a theorist, magician, and writer, overshadowed and outpaced him in every way. And who had, incidentally, despised and ridiculed him. Andromeda's heart went out to people who were overshadowed and outpaced and ridiculed and despised. She even fake-believed the dubious notion that such people might be destined to have the last laugh in the end. So she said "A.E." on occasion, as a kind of casual invocation. In high-spirited moments, she and Twice Holy Daisy Wasserstrom used to giggle-shriek it, confusing the masses and emphasizing the exclusivity of their Society of Two.

Andromeda could imagine other magicians of note, long since dead, looking down from their star thrones and snorting derisively at A.E.'s finicky writing and innovations on the customary design of the "small cards," the minor arcana. (An exception was Dame Frances Yates, who appeared, like Andromeda, to have a bit of a crush on him.) Mr. Crowley's deck might have been more theoretically sound, but A.E.'s was the deck Andromeda had learned on and still used, so the image on the card of the day was his design, painted per his instructions by Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith in 1909 e.v.

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