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Book Reviews, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee

THE MAGIC HALF by Annie Barrows…a Lovelace Nominee

After finishing The Magic Half I find myself slightly confused. It is the story of Miri.  Miri has twin older brothers and twin younger sisters.  The book starts out with Miri expressing some of her frustrations with her sibling situation and feeling unjustly punished for an altercation she believes to be her brother’s fault.

She finds the lens from a pair of eyeglasses taped to the wall in her bedroom (they have only lived in the house for a week or two).  When Miri looks through the lens she is transported back in time to 1935.  She meets Molly, the girl who lived in her bedroom seventy years earlier.  It is at this point that the story starts to lose its way.  It seems to me that the story can’t really decide if it’s an adventure, a story about sibling order, the advantages of never losing your ability to pretend, a science fiction time travel episode or the tale of two young girls getting the better of a mean, bullying older boy (who also happens to be a jewel thief).

There are some moments that are engaging:  the beginning with Miri and her siblings rings true in Miri’s words and actions; and the stints when MIri is in 1935 and dealing with the bully, Horst, are exciting and well-paced.  The parts in between tend to drag.  The character of Molly’s grandma in the 1935 house seems contrived and doesn’t really go with the rest of the story.  Also all the pages that detail Miri’s thoughts about the nature of time and time travel are boring and confusing.  It is obviously how the author made the time issue make sense in her head, as opposed to Miri’s.  A much better example of how this could be handled within a story that is both easy to understand and exciting is The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

All told, there are definitely some moments to enjoy in this story.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, they do not outweigh the ones that aren’t.

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