Chapman, Lara. The XYZs of Being Wicked
July 22nd 2014
Hallie is the first girl in her family in about five generations, and since she is from a family of witches, she is sent rather suddenly to the Dowling Academy School of Witchcraft. She is a bit surprised, but glad that she can start over, far away from former BFF and current nemesis Kendall. She's also eager to see what magic she will be able to do. When she arrives, things go well until her roommate turns out to be Kendall, who still won't speak to her. Luckily, she soon meets Ivy, whose roommate is the equally obnoxious Zena, the daughter of the headmistress. Ivy and Hallie start to ban together, and start to enjoy their classes, especially the ones dealing with discovering their magical gifts. Hallie's discovery is impeded a bit by an amulet she was looking at in the library, picked up when the custodian was around, and hasn't been able to get back to the display case! It belonged to one of the founders of the school, and it seems to have imbued Hallie with some of its power. The school is only about good magic, not black magic, so Hallie is surprised and worried when she hears Zena and Kendall trying to cast a spell to make other girls ugly, especially when the spell seems to have the opposite effect and make them prettier. Hallie has to figure out her gifts, her lineage, and how to fit in at the school and deal with a roommate who won't even talk to her.
Strengths: I know that I was enthralled by the idea of magic when I was in middle school-- I wish I knew the name of the "spell" book that I checked out repeatedly from the public library! This was good magical realism, and the girl drama is certainly part of the middle school experience, even at schools that don't deal in magic. This has a great cover, too, and a sequel coming out in April 2015.
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that Kendall would have dumped Hallie as a friend because Hallie started to wear glasses and cook kids don't-- this wasn't even true when I was in middle school. I was also confused by the titles of both books, since the academy clearly frowns on black magic. I didn't find anything objectionable in the books, but if your school had fits over Harry Potter, there would certainly be concerns about portraying witches as real.