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Don't Expect Magic

Don't Expect Magic

4.2 9
by Kathy McCullough

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Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father—a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right. Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother—an f.g.—and he can


Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father—a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right. Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother—an f.g.—and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there's a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is someone's fairy godmother.

Even though she's not the pink and sparkly type, Delaney soon finds herself with a client: Flynn Becker, a boy at her new school who's hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists. Flynn's wish is Delaney's command. With her customized black boots and chopstick wand, Delaney does everything in her power to make Flynn's wish come true. But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Reeling from her mother's unexpected death, a teen curmudgeon is packed off to live with her distant father, a life coach who is secretly an actual fairy godfather, in this slyly humorous, but predictable romance. Adjusting to her relentlessly sunny California digs proves to be almost as challenging for protagonist Delaney Collins as coming to terms with missing her mom. Her acerbic wit--she renames one of her dad's motivational manuals "Seize Happiness by the Throat and Choke It Until It Gives In"--helps her to build and maintain a shield from her peers, even as cute photography geek Flynn continually forces her to rethink her stereotype of him. Eventually, the indifference she feigns toward her dad crumbles as she discovers his absence was not motivated by irresponsibility but by his need to hide his powers from her, in a plot point that abruptly shifts the novel from realism to fantasy. Readers, particularly those who enjoy Delaney's cleverly sharp tongue, may find her transition from sullen to emotionally available too contrived. Her supposed myopia about Flynn's affections also seems unbelievable. Offsetting this, however, are some brilliantly timed moments of situational comedy and the convincing voices of characters, both primary and secondary. Fans of the burgeoning paranormal-humor genre will find plenty to like in this debut. (Paranormal comedy. 12 & up)
VOYA - Lori Pruyne
Life is not going well for Delaney Collins. She has lost her mother and had to relocate cross country to live with her barely-there father, Dr. Hank. When she has to enroll in "Happy High," a cheerful school where the principal wants to be buddies, the sun shines indoors, and even the head cheerleader is nice, she wants nothing more than to set her personally designed (black) boots back on the path home. Then Delaney discovers that her father is not just a trite life coach—he is also a fairy godmother, and so is she. She can make small wishes come true but will not get her full powers until she helps her first "client" attain a life-changing wish. The client, however, a boy from her school named Flynn Becker, just will not let her give him his happily ever after. Delaney realizes that maybe wish-granting—like people—is not everything it seems on the surface. Delaney's story is a light, fun read with an easily discernable moral. Delaney grows as she adjusts to her new circumstances and, although the pace of her character development is uneven, it is satisfying. The father—daughter relationship is explored through the lens of their magical connection, and its development mirrors Delaney's personal growth. The underlying message—all people have "hidden depths" that make them worthy—is a little heavily presented, but it is positive and not overly cloying. Romantic undertones drive the action, and they too come to a pleasing conclusion. In all, this is an enjoyable read with sprinklings of magic that will appeal to young teens in search of a happy ending. Reviewer: Lori Pruyne
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—After her mother dies, Delaney Collins, 15, flies from her home in New Jersey to live with her dad, Dr. Hank, a TV life coach, in California. Her guard is up and she's feeling hostile. It doesn't get any better when she is enrolled in high school where all of the teachers have expectations. Life gets even stranger when her dad shares his secret: he is a fairy godmother, and that the f.g. gene is hereditary. Delaney soon discovers that she can wave a wand and revive a wilted rose. But wait, those expecting this to be just a novel about magic and fairies will be pleasantly surprised to find that there is more to it. The magic powers are secondary to the realism here. Delaney is upset after her mother dies—and she has the sarcasm and bad attitude to prove it. After she meets Flynn Becker, her world changes. Even though she could use a little magic with him, she knows that her powers can't change the relationship they have because she is sure that he has an eye for another girl. She knows that will have to come with a change in her attitude toward life, and that's what happens. Readers will see her soften and see Flynn grow to like her more and more. This book is about letting one's guard down and not relying on wishes to make a situation work out. Readers looking for magic will be disappointed; those looking for the magic that lies within will want to read it again.—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.92(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Don't Expect Magic

By Kathy McCullough

Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2011 Kathy McCullough
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385908245

Chapter One

Of course I’m cursed with the most uncomfortable seat on the plane. The cushion’s deflated in this bizarrely lopsided way, like somebody with one butt cheek exponentially bigger than the other sat there before me and crushed it. My overhead light’s burned out and the bald guy in front of me dropped his diet Dr Pepper, splashing sticky soda all over my backpack, which I had wedged under the seat.

It shouldn’t be called Murphy’s Law, it should be called Delaney Collins’s Law, because I’m living it. If something can go wrong, it does, and anything bad just gets worse. I don’t even want to be on this plane. But I have no choice.

For now, anyway.

I turn up the volume on my iPod and scroll to the heavy metal playlist Mom downloaded for me: all of her favorite songs for scrambling the brain and numbing the mind. We used to blast it whenever we were angry or depressed or frustrated with the world--which was a lot toward the end. But tonight my brain cells are staying stubbornly unscrambled and unnumbed.

I stare out at the itch-black night, but the grimy little window just reflects my face back at me. The dim cabin lighting casts weird shadows that make me look like a girl out of a manga book: long black pen strokes for hair, eyes circled in dark ink, face flat and expressionless.

Maybe it’s a true reflection. Maybe everything that’s happened has drained the human part out of me and left just a two-dimensional drawing.

I wish.

I’ve tried sketching. I’ve been working on a new design: thigh-highs with spikes on the backs of the heels, chains around the ankles and slashes up and down the sides like they’ve been hacked at with a switchblade. I call them Shredded Death. The idea’s finished in my head but only halfway done on the page, because my mind keeps getting yanked back to . . .

“I like your boots.”

I turn away from the window. Next to me in the middle seat is a little girl around four years old. She’s in a pink fairy princess outfit, complete with plastic tiara and a magic wand made out of a chopstick with a glitter-covered construction-paper star taped to the end of it. Her overhead light hits her like a spotlight so that she practically shimmers. On her other side, her mother snores softly in the shadows.

I could ignore her. That usually works, but kids and old people can be a problem. There’s something abnormal about them--they can’t take a hint.

What the hell, I think. Maybe having a pointless conversation with a delusional preschooler will provide the distraction I’m desperate for. It’s worth a try. I remove one earbud but keep the other one in, so I’m still getting a regular flow of screeching guitar--an emotional IV.

“Huh?” I say. It’s important to start aloof, in case I have to cut it off abruptly. I don’t want to lead anyone on, make them think I might actually be friendly.

“I like your boots,” the girl says again, and points her lame wand toward my feet. I’m wearing a design I created back in less bleak times. I got the originals from the consignment shop I worked at after school. The boots were too big around the calf, so I slit the leather in the back and then attached brass snaps, with matching ones across the front.

I remember, faintly, the rush of joy I felt painting on the blue and yellow swirls. Mom had wanted me to make her a matching pair. But I never got around to it.


“Do you like my shoes?” The girl swings out her tiny legs, displaying a pair of sparkly pink flip-flops. Hideous.

I shrug.

“They’re magic,” she says.

“Uh-huh.” Time to turn up the frost. This conversation isn’t going anywhere good. I grab the earbud from my lap.

“Can you read my book to me?” The girl holds up the picture book resting on her tray table. She does that sad wide-eyed thing little kids do to get their way. It never works with me. “Pleeease?” She thrusts the book in my face. Annoying.

Even more annoying, I hear myself say, “Sure, whatever.”

I sigh. Stuck.

I open the book to its first cheery page and predict that this is not going to be a story that sweeps me away. Sure enough, it’s one of those sappy girl-lost-in-the-woods, helped-by-the-friendly-talking-animals, magic-spells-broken, evil-ogre-defeated stories. With the traditional but irritating and most dishonest final sentence ever created in the history of literature:

“And she lived happily ever after.”

I do my best to inject sarcasm and disapproval into my voice as I read these last words, because even if I’m not going to get anything out of the experience, at least I’ll have passed on some wisdom to the younger generation. But the girl just smiles the satisfied smile of one who is hearing the same beloved story for the billionth time. Clearly, I’m going to have to spell it out for her.

“It doesn’t really work like that, you know,” I tell her. “Things don’t end happily.”

“Yes, they do.”

I shrug and hand the book back to her. “You’ll learn,” I say. I tried. Someday she’ll look back on this conversation and remember she was warned.

“It wouldn’t be in the book if it wasn’t true,” she says firmly, like she’s teaching me some lesson.

I don’t answer. Some people would rather live in a fairy tale.

From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough Copyright © 2011 by Kathy McCullough. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

If KATHY McCULLOUGH had one wish, it would be for world peace—or a continuously self-replenishing bar of chocolate. A graduate of Cornell University, she lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a novelist and screenwriter. This is her first book.

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Don't Expect Magic 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a really cute book, but the ending was a little rushed. Overall it was awesome!!
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
Delaney reluctantly goes to California to move in with her dad after her mom dies. Shortly after moving in she finds out her dad’s secret to success – he’s a fairy godmother. Yes, a fairy godmother. It’s hereditary to the females in the family, but her dad was the exception to the rule. Delaney starts to think that she must be a fairy godmother as well and seeks to try this gift out. Her target – her schoolmates. She thinks she knows who has a wish and wants to make that wish come true. Through this journey she finds that her own wishes need to be granted too. The story started off with Delaney being the bratty teenager who wants what she wants, not what she needs. While her dad hasn’t been around for a lot of her life, she doesn’t know everything – and is reluctant to listen to her dad’s explanations and reasoning’s. She also immediately thinks he’s a liar and doesn’t respect him or anything that he is trying to do for her. After she does some snooping, she’s still not satisfied, gets caught, and then does even more snooping. I didn’t feel for Delaney at all mostly because of her spoiled and distrustful nature, there wasn’t anything to like. She was rude to other students without giving them a fair chance and was bitter about everything. If she didn’t complain about something, it was a rare event. Even those that are super nice to her she had something smart to say about them. She doesn’t listen to her dad on any account, even after he explains to her about being a fairy godmother. Once she starts testing out her own skills, the book becomes fluffier and fluffier. It didn’t have far to go from that point and all of the closure points were as expected from the beginning. It’s a cute, fluffy read, but there is no mystery or surprise to the read. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Delaney Collins knows that happily ever after is a joke. Things don't end happily and she certainly isn't living in a fairy tale. Not when her mom is dead and she is being forcibly moved across the country to live with her life coach father "Dr. Hank" in California. Some happy ending. Life in California is not what Delaney expected. Everything is bright and shiny. Keeping a low profile at school is impossible when everyone from head cheerleader Cadie to yearbook geek Flynn wants to be her friend. (Until she disabuses them of such notions at least.) And Dr. Hank is keeping a secret about what he really does to help his "clients" in need of life coaching. A really big secret. Turns out Dr. Hank is really a fairy godmother--granter of wishes, inhabitant of fairy tales everywhere. And the fairy godmother condition is hereditary. Meaning Delaney Collins, the girl with the fierce attitude and boots to match is a fairy godmother with wishes of her own to grant. If she can ever get the hang of her powers, that is. As Delaney struggles to help her first client she realizes that sometimes even a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own in Don't Expect Magic (2011) by Kathy McCullough. Don't Expect Magic is McCullough's first novel. This story is really sweet hold the saccharin. Delaney is a no nonsense narrator with great taste in footwear even if it does take her a while to develop her taste for good friends. McCullough's writing is spot-on capturing Delaney's initial surly mood as well as her transformation throughout the story. Though I would have loved more background about fairy godmother-ness, Don't Expect Magic remains a clever reinterpretation of one of the most ubiquitous fairy tale characters of all time. In addition to having a fun setting and premise, this book shines as a story about adapting and moving on--even when it's the last thing you want to do. Part modern fairy tale, part journey Don't Expect Magic is a delightful book for anyone waiting for their happy ending. (And even anyone who already has their happy ending too.) Possible Pairings: Waiting For You by Susane Colasanti, Donorboy by Brendan Halpin, Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
justhannah More than 1 year ago
I purchased this for my teenage daughter. She really enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Life is full of surprises for delaney collins,ok sure you wanna say yeah right my life is worse well your wrong.you cant blame delaney for her attitude,her moms dead,she has to move in with her dad she barely knows and the most supprising secret shes ever known. delaney a not so happy girl is about to have her world knocked right side up
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