“[W]hen genies are involved, there’s always a trick.”
Azra Nadira awakes on her 16th birthday to a magical makeover and a silver wrist bangle. She views these more as punishments than gifts, as they signify that Azra is now a full-fledged genie (properly, Jinn), with all the arts and powers (and responsibilities and restrictions) of the species. Since a childhood tragedy, Azra has fought against her heritage, rejecting her “model Jinn” mother’s example and pushing away her Zar—her cohort of “sisters.” But the tyrannical Afrit won’t permit her to escape the duty to grant wishes, even if the results are unexpected, disastrous…or reveal secrets Azra isn’t ready to learn. Through Azra’s first-person, present-tense narration, the act of “becoming Jinn” provides a rich metaphor for the potency and frustration of adolescence. Bonds between women and girls are celebrated, while such tired teen-lit tropes as romantic triangles and mean cheerleaders are subtly subverted. Unfortunately, Azra herself is the worst sort of wish-fulfillment cliché. She’s covertly desired by all the boys and envied by all the girls; she has superspecial talents, an angst-y back story and mysterious parentage; and above all, she’s infuriatingly self-centered—even the narrative’s climactic cliffhanger depends less upon the catastrophic events than on how very sad it makes Azra feel.
Those who can get past the protagonist’s tiresome pity party will be eager for further exploration of her Zar family and the subterranean intrigues of Jinn society. (Fantasy. 12 & up)