A quirky high school romance unfolds in the alternating voices of math whiz Sophia and aspiring magician Joshua.
Sophia’s social awkwardness forms the crux of the plot. Joshua is not anyone’s typical boyfriend but is madly in love with Sophia. Josh and Sophia end up going to a party together, where their budding relationship sparks, but it fizzles soon after. Keil adds in a couple of wacky friends and difficult siblings to amplify the drama. The book’s Australian origins explain the numerous references to its pop culture, and Keil’s fans will be excited to see Sam and Camilla, of Life in Outer Space (2013), make an appearance. The story intricately explores the teenagers’ quirky relationships and the notion of what it takes to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. Sophia’s character is authentically geeky, and readers will empathize with her anxiety. Although that aspect of Sophia’s character is well-plumbed, however, her South Asian culture gets short shrift. There are multiple references to Sophia’s brown skin, and her best friend, Elsie, is Indian, but their South Asian identity is not built into the story in any meaningful way, and some readers may feel that the acute lack of parents in the story is rather contrary to prevalent South Asian cultural norms.
A meandering story sadly lacking the right dose of magic. (Fiction. 14-18)