Review Blog

May 16 2017

The secret science of magic by Melissa Keil

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Hardie Grant Egmont, 2017. ISBN 9781760127763
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Coming of age. Mathematics. Magic tricks. Sophia is very smart - she loves mathematics and finds it easy to relate to logic. Joshua loves his magic tricks and is obsessed with finding a way to get to know Sophia. He decides that timing is everything and begins a campaign starting with leaving 2 of hearts card in her TARDIS wallet. As the end of school life looms, both have to come to terms with change and work out what they will do with their futures.
Melissa Keil is an award winning author (Life in outer space and The incredible adventures of Cinnamon Girl) and she continues her winning approach in The secret science of magic. Her two characters capture the reader's interest right from the first chapter. Joshua, a tall lanky boy, loves all the illusions of magic and although isolated at high school has a job and good friends away from the angst of school politics. Sophia, despite being exceptionally bright, is increasingly anxious because her best and only friend, Elsie, is planning on moving to the US for college and her relationship with her brother Toby is exceedingly tense. She has never been interested in boys, but as Joshua gains her interest with magic tricks and plays a giant illusion prank on her Drama teacher, he begins to get under her skin. Sophia's anxiety escalates during the narrative and this is handled sympathetically by Keil as is the romance between the two protagonists. Joshua is caring and understanding of Sophia's anxiety disorder and helpful when she has problems with her friend Elsie.
Keil leavens her story with wonderful flashes of humour and references to Dr Who, musicians and authors like Robin Hobb add a dimension to the story. The insights into Mathematics and Grigori Perelman, a reclusive Russian mathematician are also fascinating and will have readers researching many of the things that are mentioned.
With its humour, diversity (Sophia is of Sri Lankan descent), its sympathetic portrayal of anxiety and its gentle romance, The secret science of magic would make a fascinating Literature Circle or class text.
Pat Pledger

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