Middle school years are hard enough without an actual curse ruining your life!
Sage knows this firsthand. Sage’s narration is plucky, if a bit one-note, through most of the story as she describes how the Contrarium Curse negatively affected her mother and Mrs. Petty when they were students, turning friends into adversaries. It’s preordained that Sage and schoolmate Priscilla Petty won’t get along. Priscilla makes fun of Sage, and she’s had more darts in her arsenal ever since Sage’s daddy was imprisoned for trying to rob a bank. Given a magic candle, Sage wishes for a reversal of the curse, but it doesn’t work as she had hoped. The consequences are disastrous, as expected. Magical thinking can’t hold a candle to the true solution, which includes forgiveness, reconciliation, and acts of kindness. These discoveries, as well as finding the courage to confront Daddy’s crime, allow Sage to grow. Primary characters seem to be default white, while some secondary characters are people of color. The feel-good ending satisfies, although Sage’s father’s appeal is realistically left pending.
A thoughtful look at curse versus choice and an encouragement to youngsters to make their own paths. (Fiction. 8-12)