Subject: Plug: my new favorite YA novel
Posted on: 2020-06-18 09:11:51 UTC
Let me confess something: I'm absolutely terrible at reading books I've bought. There are exceptions, of course, but about half my library is made up of books I know for a fact would make great reads, but I'm still waiting to get just into the right mood to read them. And when I do read them, I usually regret not having done sooner.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle has been waiting patiently on my bookshelf for about two years now, a YA novel about magic and relationships I never really got into the mood to read. But now that I did, I finished it in three days (closer to two if it comes to time I actually spent reading). It's that good.
At its core, the novel is a magical realism story about a group of teenagers casting a spell, but of course there's a lot more to it than that. After an annual party in a quiet Irish town, people, and most especially two of the central characters, Rose and Olive, realize that they've started losing things. At first it's just stuff like car keys and charm bracelets and makeup bags going missing, but soon it becomes evident that something much bigger is in the background when things all over town start to disappear and Olive receives several cryptic warnings about things to come. She meets three teenage runaways named Ivy, Hazel and Rowan, who have their own secrets and losses; and we the readers also see three other girls, Laurel, Ash and Holly, cast a spell at the town party to retrieve things they've lost - but everything found requires a new loss.
These are just the beginnings of the stories and the intricate relationships of the main characters, and while the book isn't particularly plot-heavy, the gorgeous, evocative writing and the characters more than make up for it. We have quirky families, cranky pub owners, poetry-loving dads, some absolutely delightful sibling relationships, two openly bisexual protagonists, one of whom is biracial, a sapphic romance, teenage feminism, humor and heartbreak, deep dark secrets, friendships forming and falling apart - and of course, plenty of magic. The final resolution in particular is beautifully woven together - not at all what I'd expected, but that's a compliment. The book also tackles issues like parental neglect and alcoholism head-on (and there's a particular trigger warning that I can't give without spoiling a major plot point, but let me know if someone needs it), and portrays teenage sexuality and alcohol use pretty openly, but never in a way that feels tasteless. Teens do party and spend the night together, after all. At its core it could be a pretty dark book, and it does have its less-than-cheerful moments, but it's definitely not the kind that leaves you with a heavy heart. It's not a perfect novel, but it is beautiful and I thoroughly recommend it to lovers of YA and magic.