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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Parties & Potions (Magic In Manhattan)* by Sarah Mlynowski- young adult book review
Also by Sarah Mlynowski:

Spells and Sleeping Bags (Magic in Manhattan)
Parties & Potions (Magic In Manhattan)
by Sarah Mlynowski
Grades 7+ 352 pages Delacorte December 2008 Hardcover    

Fifteen-year-old teenage witch Rachel Weinstein is back in Sarah Mlynowski’s newest addition to her Magic In Manhattan series, Parties & Potions. Rachel faces the same types of turmoils and travails your average teen girl does: fitting in with the A-list crowd; getting good grades; deciding if she’d rather date her human boyfriend, Raf Kosravi, or the warlock Adam; debuting at the witch society’s version of a debutante ball, a magical party called a Samsorta...Well, okay, she may not be typical in every way.

The most difficult decision she confronts is if she should tell her father and Raf that she’s a witch. Her mom and dad are divorced, and her father is a norlock (a mortal man without magical powers), but she and her sister Miri love their dad and spend every other weekend with him and his new wife. They would love him to come to their Samsorta and see their initiation into witch society, but their mother, Carol, has never told their father, Dave, the truth, so Rachel isn’t sure it’s a good idea to tell him. Would he freak out? Would he stop loving them?

And what about Raf? Their romance is getting along so well, but Rachel worries that if Raf knew she was a witch, if he knew the real Rachel, he might not believe her – or he might think she’s crazy and dump her. He signs a note to her “Love, Raf,” and she thinks she might be in love with him, too. If he knew the truth, her fantasies about their blissful future together might not come to pass. Their relationship is based on lies, but will it come to an end if she tells him she’s a witch?

As if going to school weren’t difficult enough, Rachel and thirteen-year-old Miri (whom Rachel is somewhat jealous of, because Miri developed both magical powers and breasts earlier than Rachel) have to take classes on Saturdays for three hours in Arizona to learn the ancient witch language, Brixa, and the history of witches and their contributions to the world. A traveling spell lets them travel almost instantaneously, and they take the different time zones into account for cover stories for their absences to tell their father and Raf.

What with school, the Saturday classes, and an ever-expanding social calendar with commitments for the sisters to appear at Simsortas (the male warlocks’ version of the Samsorta - they occur intermittently during the year), skiing at Colorado, surfing in Hawaii, etc., it’s not easy to keep the lies and cover stories plausible. It would be so much simpler if they could tell everyone the truth and be more like some of their friends, like Wendaline or Vivian.

Although Vivian is accepted at her school by her peers for who she is, such is not actually the case for the previously home-schooled Wendaline, who goes to JFK Junior High with the sisters. Rachel tells her not to do magic at school, dress like a witch, or let anyone know she’s a witch there, despite Wendaline wanting to be herself and not caring if people know. Their friend displays enough peculiar behavior that Wendaline becomes the butt of mean pranks and comments by the A-list girls, including when one of them puts a wad of gum in her hair. Seeing how other students treat Wendaline, Rachel can’t help but wonder how badly she might be treated if they found out that she’s a witch.

On top of everything else, she’s attracted to a warlock named Adam at the classes she and Miri take in Arizona. She’s torn between choosing between dating Raf, whom she likes a lot but who might dump her if he knew the truth about her, and Adam, who knows what it’s like to have magical powers and has dealt with some of the same things she has had to. She finds herself wanting to spend time with Adam and the other witches and warlocks she’s met, and she has to decide whom she likes more. Miri, who is becoming a stronger, more interesting character with each book, has a crush on a red-headed boy she meets in Arizona, Cory Praw. Their budding romance is sweet and will probably remind readers of their own first loves.

Parties & Potions is a fun, entertaining book that should appeal to a teen audience quite a bit. Rachel and Miri’s magical powers and their abilities to control them get better with each book in the series, and the spells they learn are pretty cool. Also, Rachel and Miri have to deal with something that teens and people of all ages have to face - being true to themselves, even if they fear that others won’t like them if they know the truth about them. Recommended for readers who are already fans of the series or who like humorous novels involving the supernatural.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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