Sunday, January 22, 2006

Magic or Madness

Larbalestier, Justine. 2005. MAGIC OR MADNESS. New York: Razorbill. ISBN 1595140220 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

15 year old Reason has spent her life hiding in the Australian bush with her mother, Serafina, to escape being found by Serafina’s evil mother who, Reason has been told, is a magic-practicing, baby-eating witch. When Serafina is institutionalized, Reason – so named because her mother valued reason over the “smoke and mirrors of magic” -- is forced to live with her grandmother Esmeralda. Wary and suspicious of her grandmother, fiercely protective of her own independence, Reason bides her time looking for escape routes and proof of her grandmother’s abuse of her mother. When Reason unlocks the back door, she finds herself alone and coatless in snowy New York City and unable to find her way back to the house, thus beginning an adventure that will cause her to question her mother’s teaching that magic does not exist. With the help of her new friends, Jay-Tee who has secrets of her own, and Tom, her grandmother’s neighbor, Reason must not only determine who and what she truly is, but also face life-threatening danger in the form of a magician who could take part of her magic. Reason comes to understand that when one is magic one must either use one’s magic or go mad as her mother did.

MAGIC AND MADNESS is part mystery, part teen-age angst/coming-of-age story but always eerie fantasy in which good and evil are not always clearly delineated for the protagonist or the reader. Larbalestier seems to take delight in forcing the reader, along with Reason, to jump to wrong conclusions which makes the plot complex and the story addictive.

The message in this novel is the need to be who one truly is or face “madness.” Have readers discuss what other interpretations they might have.

Other fantasy novels:
Paolini, Christopher. ERAGON. ISBN 0375826688
Pullman, Philip. THE GOLDEN COMPASS. ISBN 0679879242

By Terri Moore

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