Sunday, October 02, 2022

Spells for Lost Things

Welch, Jenna Evans. Spells for Lost Things
September 27th 2022 by Simon Schuster Books for Young
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Willow has had a hard time since her parents divorced; when the family lived in Brooklyn, her parents spent time with her, but now her mother has moved them to California so she can run her swanky event planning business, and her father is busy with his new wife and triplets. Willow loves spending time with her cousin Bea in France, and has a plan to spend her senior year there. When her mother shoots that down, she is crushed, and also surprised that her mother seems so affected by the query. A short time later, her mother receives news that her twin sister Sage has died and left her a house in Salem, Massachusetts. Willow is gobsmacked-- her mother never even mentioned a twin, and has always claimed to be from Long Island. The two take off to deal with the estate in Salem. Also in that historic town is Mason, who has been brought there by his social worker after a long line of foster placements. Mason's mother struggles with addiction, hasn't cared for him for eight years, and now can't be contacted. He is being sent to live with his mother's best friend, Emma Morgan, who lives with her husband and four girls. Mason, who has run away from foster homes because he really just wants to be with his mother, settles in reluctantly, and struggles with how much Emma reminds me of his mom, especially since she doesn't talk to him much. He also struggles with the four girls, especially the youngest ones who like to put make up on him and rope him into elaborate plays. Willow and Mason are connected through Sage's house; Mason's foster father is the real estate agent. It's a spectacular house that Sage renovated, but Willow's mom wants nothing to do with it. When the two both sneak into the house and run into each other, Mason leaves his notebook there, Willow picks it up, and Willow eventually determines that Mason would be helpful in solving the mysteries that are in letters that the aunt has left for her. Matters are somewhat complicated by the fact that her mother's aunts are all self proclaimed witches who swear there is a family curse on all of the Bell women. As Willow struggles with her mother's past and her deep desire to stay in the aunt's house, and Morgan struggles with fitting in to his new family and dealing with his feelings of his mother's abandonment, the two develop a supportive romantic relationship. 
Strengths: Welch's Love and Gelato has been super popular with my students, and there's even a Netflix film version of it now. (Along with one of Dessen's Along for the Ride! How did I not know this?) This has all of the elements that I love to read; teens struggling with their parents, a light romance, a fun setting (now I sort of want to visit Salem!), and interesting supportive characters. Mason's story is definitely the more compelling one, and it's good to see him land with a supportive foster familyand eventually feel that this is a good placement. It's a young adult book, so a bit on the longer side, but is completely a middle grade appropriate romance with shy looks and maybe a kiss. I just enjoyed that they are friends but both have crushes on the other. This is told from both of their viewpoints. 
Weaknesses: Willow came across as very entitled at first and I had a hard time feeling sorry for her lack of "feeling at home" or being thwarted in her attempts to travel. Young readers won't think so much about that. I also couldn't get into the family mystery of the curse as much, but it was fine. I found Mason's story much more interesting, so kept rushing to get back to his viewpoint. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. I love the cover, the Salem setting will help sell this, and I do still have some readers who really want high school romance books that are not...instructive. Haven't seen a whole lot of those recently, so I'm glad to see this new title. 
 Ms. Yingling

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