Friday, December 20, 2019

The 12th Candle

Tomsic, Kim. The 12th Candle
October 8th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Sage lives out west in the town of Goldview, and her family is cursed. Years ago, her mother and her best friend (the mother of Sage's nemesis, Priscilla) got caught in a storm with pink lightning, and ever since, they've had to deal with the Contrarium curse, where if something goes right for one woman, it goes wrong for the other. Sage's family has gotten the worst of it, and her father is in jail for attempting to rob the bank owned by Priscilla's family. Her mother is struggling, and Sage is bitter. Her best friend, Bailee, helps her a lot, and believes in the curse. When the girls happen into a new shop run by the quirky Minerva, Sage gets a candle for her birthday that is supposed to grant wishes. She accidentally wishes that her mother had remembered to pay the electric bill, and the lights come on. She eventually wishes that the curse be reversed, and Priscilla starts having bad luck. Sage feels a need to help that along, though, and brings crickets to school and puts them in Priscilla's gym locker, which causes a lot of problems. She finally consults Mrs. Rimmells, who taught her mother as well, and tries to work out a way to stop the curse once and for all. Is it too late?

The details of modern middle school life are very vivid-- changing for gym and not letting anyone see you, reading The Outsiders, and dealing with other students who aren't very nice. Sage and her mother struggle to afford food and clothing, and Sage is sometimes home alone, with a neighbor to check in on her. There is also some solid magic; the curse is real, and so are the wishes. It's a nice note that even Sage sometimes doubts the reality of the magic.

I loved the description of Mrs. Rimmells, with her bright floral dresses with pockets for tissues and her homemade doughnuts that she brings to school. Priscilla is also a good character-- entitled and sometimes bratty, but not completely beyond redemption. Mrs. Downey's desire to remain Janitor of the Year despite the cricket infestation is amusing as well.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Tomsic provides her own list of read-alikes for this title when the characters mention their own favorite books that they see displayed in Minerva's shop; Wendy Mass, Bruce Coville, Henry Lien, Philip Pullman, and Ingrid Law. The 12th Candle has a good dose of magical realism combined with middle grade drama that appeals to fans of those authors.

That being said, this sort of quirky (Sage's last name is Sassafras) magical realism doesn't do all that well in my library. I may not purchase. Dragons are ruling the day with my 6th graders.

Ms. Yingling

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