The Secret Science of Magic – Melissa Keil

Melissa Keil is one of the finest voices in Australian YA fiction. Her books are always delightful, entertaining and wonderfully eccentric and The Secret Science of Magic, her third novel is no exception.

A quirky, high school romance unfolds in alternating voices of maths whiz Sophia and aspiring magician Joshua. The Secret Science of Magic is a book with a lot of heart that deals with complex questions of love, identity, friendship – sensitively and realistically.

Sophia is a fantastic and refreshing character. She is almost certainly on the autism spectrum – brilliant in science and maths but finds people challenging. Life for Sophia is not comfortable – crowds frighten her and she suffers from panic attacks. She lives inside her own head and sees the world a little differently to those around her. Sophia is authentically geeky and readers will emphasise with her anxiety.

I like that Sophia shows us that just because someone doesn’t feel comfortable around people doesn’t mean that they are shy, aloof or uninterested. Many of those on the spectrum choose to be alone, preferring their own company – a little like introverts.

“I resist the urge to remind her that I am not shy. That’s always been the conclusion most people draw about me, the simplest and least demanding diagnosis, which I rarely bother to correct, ‘shy’ is a label everyone can get on board with.”

Keil has an exceptional gift of putting together characters who are uniquely different but so well matched. Joshua is empathetic, vulnerable, awkward and romantic. He understands Sophia and Sophia needs a Josua in her life.

Joshua brings fun and joy to Sophia’s life. He uses his magic to woo her (often anonymously) and it works. It is sweet, charming and gorgeous. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like magic.

“Mr Grayson’s vintage movie projector on the back of the room starts to whirl…it floods the dreary lab with flickering light and then begins broadcasting a Dr Who Xmas special.”

Josh is unique because at school he’s a loner but he’s okay with this, he’s happy and he isn’t fazed by what other people think.

Melissa Keil has a knack for creating colourful and likeable characters that you wish you knew in real life. Her characters feel real and always are fun, engaging and intelligent.

The Secret Science of Magic is a modern classic for today’s generation. Both Joshua and Sophia are clueless about what their life after high school will look like. Keil doesn’t sugar coat the reality of what life can be like for a teenager and the confusion that occurs particularly in Year 12 where life is about to change dramatically.

What I love about Melissa Keil’s books is they sparkle and yet they have hidden depths. She always makes her books funny, uplifting but also moving and emotionally wise. She makes it look so smooth and effortless, but a book with this much heart has been written by an exceptional author.

Like her previous novels, The Secret Science of Magic is humorous, heartfelt and compelling. Once again Melissa Keil has delivered a book that is heartwarming, empathetic and often hilarious – a delightful read.

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Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley

Well, I finally read Graffiti Moon, and it is beautiful. The book is set in Melbourne and truly captures the heart of the city. The story is set over one night and is told in alternating chapters by Lucy, Ed and “Poet”.

Lucy loves art, reading and is a curious individual. Lucy is in love with “Shadow”. She feels she knows Shadow through his graffiti art and that Shadow is her soulmate (if only she knew who he was). Lucy, herself, is also an artist. She is a glass blower and knows that even some of the most beautiful pieces of glass have cracks running through them and this theme is developed as the book progresses through the night. Lucy’s friends are Daisy and Jazz who are both outspoken, frank but likeable girls.

Ed is a dyslexia teen who has dropped out of school and is currently unemployed. His two best friends are Leo and Dylan. Two years ago, Lucy and Ed went out, and Lucy broke his nose. This was there one and only date!

Poet is Shadow’s best friend. He often writes poetry to accompany Shadow’s art.

Daisy, Jazz and Lucy have decided to go out and celebrate finishing Year twelve. Leo and Dylan are also out marking the end of Year 12 and have roped Ed in to join them in their fun. The girls run into the boys while out and they decide to all hang out together, much to the reluctance of Ed and Lucy. In the end, the only reason Lucy stays is that the boys tell her that they know who Shadow and Poet are and will help the girls track the two boys down.

Unbeknownst to the girls but revealed to the reader is the fact that Ed and Leo are Shadow and Poet. Ed is an unenthusiastic participant in this game of finding “Shadow & Poet”, but during the evening finds himself travelling the city with Lucy looking at Shadow’s art and trying to track Shadow down.

The beauty of this book is that it is set at night, and so as a reader, we are able to glimpse into the life of Melbourne teens under the cover of darkness. Crowley allows us to spend a night with these teens who are experimenting with life and living large. They are on the cusp of finishing school and discovering who they are and what they want their life to be. Exams are yet to happen, life outside of school is within their grasp, and their futures are there for the taking.

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