VOYA - Sarah Sogigian
The adventures of Rachel and Miri Weinstein, teen sisters who live in present-day New York City and who also happen to be witches, continue here. This book is the fifth in the Magic in Manhattan series and focuses on the sisters' Samsorta, a rite of passage for female witches. After being kept in the dark about their powers and their mother's pre-parent life, the girls learn more about their witch lives by taking classes and meeting others in the witch community via Mywitchbook.com. Rachel begins the book as a slightly superficial character, spending much of the first chapter deciding what color her new back-to-school top should be, but she becomes an incredibly likeable character. Rachel is reluctant to become too involved with her new life, especially after seeing how their new witch friend, Wendaline, is treated at school. While Miri is enjoying every minute of her Samsorta preparation, Rachel struggles with explaining herself to her norlock (non-witch) father and boyfriend, Raf. To make matters more complicated is the introduction of Adam, a teen warlock, who makes Rachel wonder if dating (and living) solely within the witch community would make life easier. Beyond offering the obvious plot of fitting in when one is different, this book is especially memorable for the very real depiction of sisters who love and support each other. This book is recommended for libraries where the other series titles have been popular Reviewer: Sarah Sogigian
KLIATT - Donna Scanlon
In the fourth installment of the Magic in Manhattan series, sisters Rachel and Miri learn about a special coming-of-age ritual for young witches called the Samsorta. Miri wants to participate in the ceremony, and she talks Rachel into participating. Rachel is really more concerned with keeping her magical status a secret, especially from her boyfriend Raf, and with navigating the cliques and status situations of her high school. Complicating the situation is a new friend, Wendeline, another witch who has been home schooled until this year; Rachel tries to convince her to keep her magic under wraps. At first they enjoy the preparatory classes, but soon life becomes more complicated when they have to figure out how to keep their attendance at class a secret from Raf and from their father. Also, they feel torn between their new friends and adventures with them and their old life in New York. Ultimately, Rachel learns an important lesson about being honest with herself. Rachel narrates the story in first person in a breezy chick-lit style, and while the spells and some of the situations seem a little silly, there's a solid story underpinning the fluff. Rachel and Miri and their mother have to learn how to trust each other and the people important to them. For Rachel, the most important insight is what it means to be true to oneself, and that comes through clearly although not too obviously. The characterizations are a bit thin, but Rachel is sympathetic and appealing. The book stands well on its own; the back story is woven into the narrative unobtrusively. Pick it up especially if you have the other titles in the series, but it's also worth giving this a try if readers are looking forteen witch-type stories. Reviewer: Donna Scanlon
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
What is a girl to do when she discovers that she is not like most of the people around her? Fifteen-year-old Rachel Weinstein has recently found out that, like her mother and her thirteen-year-old sister Miri, she is a witch. Many of her powers, such as being able to move through space without physical transportation, are great fun, though she is not quite proficient yet and sometimes ends up in unintended places. Her real problem, though, is her fear of other people finding out. She does not want the kids at school to know, especially her best friend Tammy and her boyfriend Raf. She is too afraid of losing them to trust them with her secret. And she certainly does not want her father to find out. Her parents' divorce and her father's remarriage have created enough stress; Rachel fears that her father will stop loving her if he knows she is a witch. Her mother will not tell himshe has never let him know about her own powersbut Miri thinks their father ought to know. And when Miri finds out about the witches' coming out party, or Samsorta, she is determined that she and Rachel will attend Charm School so they can participate. At the school, the sisters meet and enjoy other young witches and warlocks, and Miri finds a boyfriend of her own. She is ready to stop hiding who she is, but Rachel is still uncertain. When she and Miri finally tell their father and stepmother, her fears are realized. Her father is horrified and both girls are heartbroken. But by the end of the book, their father comes to the Samsorta and Rachel tells Tammy, who is delighted, and Raf, who still loves her anyway. The story, part of the "Magic in Manhattan" series, is filled with breezy dialogue andslapstick humor as well as credible emotion. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito
Teen witch Rachel and her sister Miri discover more about their magical roots in this fluffy, style-conscious fourth installment of the Magic in Manhattan series. Newly aware of the magical community that exists parallel to their everyday lives, Rachel and Miri spend much of the book preparing for their Samsorta, a sort of witchy coming-of-age ceremony (perhaps most closely resembling a bat mitzvah). Subplots involving Rachel's confusion over her feelings for two different boys and her fear of being outed as a witch to her father and nonmagical friends provide a bit of depth and will be relevant to teen girls. Details including a witch-specific social-networking site and popular teen text-speak may eventually date this title, but at the moment are right on the mark. Established fans of the series will find this a satisfying expansion of the story line, and it may well appeal to young teens looking for a fun, light read. However, the one-dimensional secondary characters and too-neat ending pull it down toward the mediocre. (Fantasy. 10-15)
Read an Excerpt
So Many Outfits . . . Only One First Day
Do I like red?
I pirouette before the mirror. Yes, the red shirt could work. Red makes my hair look super-glossy and glamorous and goes great with my favorite jeans.
If I do say so myself.
The shirt has a scooped neckline and adorable bubble sleeves. It’s my back-to-school top for the big, BIG day tomorrow—the very first day of sophomore year! My BFF, Tammy, and I went shopping last week for the occasion. I know I could have just zapped something up, but the first rule of witchcraft is that everything comes from something. I didn’t want to accidentally shoplift a new shirt from Bloomingdale’s.
I like the red. It works with my complexion. But I don’t know if it truly shows off my fabulous tan. Hmm. I touch the material grazing my collarbone and chant:
“Like new becomes old,
Like day becomes night,
Pretty back-to-school top,
Please become white!”
I’ve found that adding “please” to my spells really helps. The Powers That Be seem to appreciate it when I’m polite.
A chill spreads through the room, sending goose bumps down my back, and then—zap!—the spell takes effect. The red of my top quickly drains from the material, which turns fuchsia, dark pink, pale pink, and finally as white as Liquid Paper.
Now we’re talking! Yes. It should be white. White shows off my awesome summer tan.
My awesome fake summer tan. Obviously. It’s not like I have a pool in downtown Manhattan to lounge by, and anyway it’s been way too muggy and humid in this city to stay outside for more than twenty seconds, so how could I get naturally sun-kissed? Unfortunately, my camp tan is long gone. But is my fake tan a spray-on? Nope. Is it from one of those tanning booths that could pass for a medieval torture chamber? Again, nope.
How did I get it, then? Why, I call it the Perfect Golden Tan That Makes Me Look Like I Live in California spell. (Patent pending.)
I made it up last week and it worked immediately. True, at first I looked like I had a rash, or perhaps a severe case of the measles, but by the following afternoon, the color had settled into a golden glow. A golden glow that makes me look like a native San Franciscan. Or is it Francistite? Francissian?
Anyway, I am very in control of my powers these days. Ever since Miri taught me megel exercises (you control the flow of your raw will by lifting and lowering inanimate objects such as books and pillows. Not glasses. Don’t try glasses. Trust me on this), my magic muscles have gotten much stronger.
I finally got my very own copy of A2 (otherwise known as The Authorized and Absolute Reference Handbook to Astonishing Spells, Astounding Potions, and History of Witchcraft Since the Beginning of Time), but since I’m so good at making up my own spells, it’s not like I need it. If you know how to cook, do you need a recipe? I think not.
Yes, my top has to be white. Everyone knows white is the best color to wear when tanned. Tomorrow, when I glide into JFK High School, they will say, “Who is that perfectly bronzed girl? Could that be Rachel Weinstein?” And “Did you hear? She’s going out with the wonderful and gorgeous A-lister Raf Kosravi! Isn’t she amazing?”
Yes, it’s going to be a great year. The best year ever. I’m calling it The Sophomore Spectacular! My very own Broadway show. And tomorrow is opening day.
Nothing can go wrong, because:
I am healthily tan, I have a boyfriend, and I have a groovalicious new haircut with lots of fabo layers. And I am a witch.
Yup, I’m a witch. Obviously. How else would I be able to change the color of my shirt over and over again? My mom and sister are witches too. We’re chanting, broom-riding, love-spell-casting magic machines. Well, Miri and I are magic machines. Mom is a mostly nonpracticing witch.
Luckily, I did not need a love spell to make Raf fall in love with me. Nope, he loves me all on his own. Not that he’s said those three magic words. But he will eventually. Am I not lovable? I think I’m pretty lovable. He’s definitely lovable.
He’s my honey-bunny.
Okay, I haven’t actually called him that to his face. But I am auditioning potential terms of endearment in my head. Other options are sweet pea and shmoopie.
Even without the names, we make everyone sick. Not throwing-up sick, but yay-for-them sick. I think. Since we became a couple at camp, we’ve spent practically every day together. We hung in the park. We watched TV. We shopped. (He bought this awesome-looking brown waffle shirt that brings out his brown eyes, olive skin, and broad shoulders, and every time he wears it, I tell him how hot he is.) We kissed. (There was a lot of kissing. A ginormous amount of kissing. So much kissing I had to buy an extra-strength Chap Stick. But it tasted like wax paper, so I switched to extra-shiny cherry lip gloss. Yum. The problem is I love it so much I keep licking it off. Which just increases the chappedness of my lips. It’s a vicious cycle.)
As I was saying, I don’t need to use spells around Raf. Okay, you got me; that’s a bit of a lie. Last week I poofed up fresh breath after gorging on too many pieces of garlic bread. I didn’t want him to have to hold his nose while playing tongue gymnastics. But that’s it. I would never cast a love spell on him. Okay, that’s another lie. When Miri first got her powers, we zapped him with one. (Miri, my two-years-younger sister, discovered she was a witch before I found out that I was. How unfair is that?) But we accidentally cast the spell on Raf’s older brother, Will, instead, so no harm done. Well, not too much. Will and I dated but broke up at the prom when I realized he was really truly in love with my friend Kat.
Now, what was I doing? Oh, right. White!
I pretend that my room is a catwalk and sashay away from the mirror and then back toward it. Here’s the prob: wearing white might be mega-obvious, since everyone knows that you wear white when you’re trying to show off a tan. Also, for some reason, white is making my head look big. Do I have a big head? Is having a big head bad? Or does it mean I’m smarter?
Perhaps I should try blue. Blue looks good on me. It brings out my brown eyes. Yes! I must bring out my eyes! I clear my throat and say:
“Like night becomes day,
Like calm seas become wavy,
Pretty back-to-school top,
Please become navy!”
Cold! Zap! Poof!
From the Hardcover edition.