Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - book review

I seem to be reading nothing but supernatural stories lately. First I read, Evermore. Then, Hush Hush. And now, I’ve just finished Once a Witch. Evermore is the story of a teen girl and a cute immortal. Hush Hush is the story of a teen girl and a cute archangel. Once a Witch is the story of a teen witch….. and a cute warlock. It seems the prescription of late is girl + supernatural boy = better girl. I know Twilight is popular, but c’mon!

But today I’m writing about Once a Witch, not beating a dead Twilight horse, and Once a Witch is a respectable young adult read, probably my favorite of the three. So, a fair shake is in order.

Tasmin is a seventeen-year-old girl born into a long line of witches. Unfortunately, Tasmin has managed to be the only one without a Talent. To escape family pressure, Tasmin’s managed to send herself off to a nice, normal boarding school in New York. Lots of teen angst ensues until the bad guy is injected into the story. Then, readers are in for a suspense-styled ride filled with nice bits of romance, humor and peril.

Once a Witch is a coming-of-age tale with a juxtaposed misfit protagonist. Tasmin is a strong voiced and likeable girl, surrounded by supporting characters that could have easily stolen the show. But though I loved the extended hodge-podge of witches, this is where my criticisms begin.

I’m going to say something in a positive review that I never thought I’d say: too much editing! Once a Witch's plotting is mostly solid, but the characters are filled with unexamined potential. This is nowhere truer than in the case of Tasmin’s love interest: Gabriel. The couple’s back-story is a well of unfulfilled dramatic possibility. Perhaps the sequel will offer the richness I so desperately sought.

Characterization lust aside, there is an enjoyable story in the pages of Once a Witch. While reading, I was strongly reminded of one of my favorite stories: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I offer that comparison as the finest of praise.

Recommended for teen realistic-styled fantasy readers, those of the Twilight mindset, older Harry Potter graduates and for high school library purchase. 

-------------------- Resources --------------------
Genre: Fantsy. Age: Young Adult.  Pages: 304.

Themes: Unique You, Coming of Age, Romance, Suspense

Thank You to The Picnic Basket for my advanced copy.
Advisory: There are some unessential sex, drinking and smoking references sprinkled throughout. Some folks will take offense, some will want to discuss it with their teens and others will simply chalk it up to modern exposures.
Publisher: Clarion Books. Date: September 2009.
ISBN-13: 978-0547223995
Buy Once a Witch Here

Here's the book's website with an excerpt, quizzes and discussion guide.

Book Trailer:

Author Carolyn MacCullough's life changed completely after she sold her first book. It was then that, "my life just turned into a magical fairytale complete with unbelievable wealth, fame, endless cotton candy, and my own personal unicorn," she says. It seems like she's a tongue-in-cheek sort of gal. You can read more about her on her website.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti. www.ReadingRumpus.com

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