Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)
What did you like about the book? Astor’s community has passed down magic for generations with girls learning witchery and boys developing their shapeshifting abilities. These rules of magic are followed to protect the supposed natural order of the world, but our hero finds himself drawn to witchery, sneaking into classes to learn spells and casting in the night to practice. No one understands Astor’s yearning except a girl he meets in the non-magic world; the two bond over the differences that make them outcasts when they show their true selves. Astor’s personal struggle is soon joined by a much bigger complication as young shapeshifters are going missing. With Astor walking the line between the two forms of magic he alone can fit the pieces of the puzzle together to rescue the boys, but it seems only at a great cost.
Astor’s story is a beautiful metaphor about societal expectations versus the individual journey; in particular, this addresses gender roles and LGBT+ issues and in a clear manner with an otherworldly twist to make it accessible to a wide variety of audiences, exposing young readers to the overarching ideas of acceptance. The plot and character development flow smoothly together within the narrative, creating a deeply emotional connection between Astor and the reader within just a few pages. Ostertag’s illustrations focus on the characters as well, making each panel a study in emotion or expression; the addition of more color in the final product will surely make the story leap off the pages to invoke delight or fear in readers as they travel through the start of a new friendship or a dark and foreboding wood.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing! While some readers may want more after the final page (ie. a sequel), the book wraps up well with the characters beginning to explore their full potential and the community learning to accept what they may not understand.
To whom would you recommend this book? Recommended to middle grade readers who have enjoyed Telgemeier’s themes or self-discovery books such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.
Who should buy this book? Children’s library collections (public and school)
Where would you shelve it ? J Graphic Novels
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, please! It is a short and well-done book with a powerful message.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA
Date of review: July 23, 2017