Three 12-year-old friends dedicate a summer to practicing the art of magic, but the real trick lies in dealing not simply with cards, but with their differences.
While stage magic frames the narrative, it’s the kids’ friendships and complex stories that propel the swiftly paced novel. Z, short for Ezio, is the youngest sibling in a big family with financial restraints, and whether at home or with friends, he consistently feels overlooked and underestimated. Dominic’s bright (or, as his friends say, a “know-it-all”) and a reader; he opts to focus on mentalism rather than card tricks, in part to understand his parents’ divorce and hostility. Only-child Loop (an accidental nickname for Guadalupe) has recently learned that his “dad” is not his biological father and feels betrayed by his family, especially his dad. It’s during their practice in the back room in the Conjuring Cat magic shop that they meet Mr. Garza, the owner, accountant, and skilled magician who coaches the trio to compete in the Texas Association of Magicians’ teen stage contest. López opens the short chapters with apt magicians’ terms (flash, heckler, cut, vanish) followed by their definitions, often foreshadowing action and brimming with double-entendres. As related in third-person chapters that rotate through the friends’ perspectives and feature believable dialogue, the friends’ obstacles are realistic and the finale is satisfying.
A clever reveal highlights this appealing, Latino cast. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 8-12)