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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blog No. 16-- Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough


Title: Once a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough

Bibliographic Information:
Reading level: Young Adult—Grade 9 and up
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books (September 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547223994
ISBN-13: 978-0547223995

ALAs Best Books for Young Adults, 2010

Reader’s Annotation:
Tamsin is just an ordinary seventeen-year-old girl, which under most conditions wouldn’t be so bad—except that she comes from many generations of witches, where her normal traits disappoint her family. When she meets a strange man who needs her sister’s help, Tamsin pretends to be her sister, and as a result is put into a thrilling and very dangerous adventure.

Plot Summary:
Tamsin Greene was born an ordinary girl to a family that, for generations, has produced some of the most powerful witches in town. The day she was born, her grandmother believed that Tamsin would be the greatest of all of them. However, her magic never arrived. Now this seventeen-year-old girl is forced to live a life as a normal girl in an extraordinary family—a difficult feat for any teen trying to just fit in. One day while working in her grandmother’s bookstore, Tamsin meets a mysterious man from Scotland, who is a professor. He came looking for her sister, because he needed her special powers to help him locate a lost family heirloom. He mistakes Tamsin for her sister, and she goes along with the mistake, and agrees to take the job. The missing heirloom search involves a trek back in time to a mysterious and dangerous world where she unleashes some powerful magic, sinister secret, and finds love. The ended is very open, which means that a sequel might be coming soon…

Critical Evaluation:
Except for Tamsin, who is a round character, the rest of the folks peppering this book are actually quite flat (remember, ladies and gentleman, the difference between round and flat characters from Shakespeare)? This is a very plot-driven book, which makes it fun, but not as compelling as it could be if the other characters—Gabriel, for instance, has a bit more dimension. Tamsin drinks and smokes, too—she’s not the goody-goody witch wannabe of so many stories. She has some edge to her, which makes her character very well drawn. Overall, this is a great read despite its lack of character development, but it is possible that the author, who left the ending open and may be planning a sequel—chose to keep the other characters a bit one-sided, because she may intend to develop them further in the sequel. Nonetheless, most young adults will love this book, as it is “not your mama’s witch story.”

Reading level/Interest Age:
Reading level is easy, but the book is appropriate and is recommended for 9th grade and up. Girls will love this, and some boys who enjoy fantasy, may as well (although I think this is definitely a “chick book”

Information about the Author:
Born and Raised in Connecticut, Carolyn McCullough always wanted to be a writer—because she loved to read. She was always jotting down notes, poems, and largely wrote fairytale stories as a young girl. She attended Grinnell College and received a BA in Theatre. She went to New York, worked and went to graduate school at night. She received her Maters in Creative Writing from the New School, and in 2002 sold her first novel, Falling through Darkness. She went to Europe and taught English, traveled through the East Coast of America, and eventually returned to New York, where she taught creative writing. Currently, she teaches creative writing at Gotham Writers, Inc. Other books include Drawing the Ocean and Stealing Henry.

Curriculum Ties:

Booktalking Ideas:

You come from a long line of witches, with amazing and wonderful powers. You go to school, and find out that you are the only one in your family who hasn’t been given this gift. What do you do now?

Challenge Issues:
Religious. Some people don’t like stories about witches, warlocks and vampires. They don’t have to read them, but they need to remember that everyone else has the right to read then if they choose. It is a free country. Libraries are for everyone!

Why I Included This Book:
This was in the Follett List of books, and we bought it. My library TA Jessica read it, and really enjoyed it, so she got me to read it, too. We think girls will love it!

Cover image courtesy of: http://www.carolynmaccullough.com/news/

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