Magic and mystery abound in this latest celebrity novel.
After his parents vanish mysteriously, Carter’s life takes a turn for the worse. Forced to live with a distant relative known as Sly Mike who is a magician and a con artist, the white lad is taught wonderful magic tricks but is forced to employ them to aid and abet his “uncle’s” criminal activities. When his uncle goes too far, Carter flees to the town of Mineral Wells, where he meets Mr. Vernon and the Other Mr. Vernon—two men with an adopted daughter—and a crew of teenage magicians who are misfits like himself and who teach him to believe in the redemptive powers of magic and family. This is acclaimed actor Harris’ (Choose Your Own Autobiography, 2015, etc.) first foray into children’s literature (and fiction in general), and it bears all of the acne scars, wide-eyed optimism, and awkwardness one might expect from a freshman effort. Carter is a winsome enough protagonist, but he fails to achieve three-dimensionality because the narrative pace does not pause long enough to fully ground him in readers’ imaginations. Locations feel hastily sketched, which also makes Carter feel unrooted. In the diverse supporting cast, readers can sense the earnestness behind the author’s crafting of the narrative, but some of the minutiae need refining.
An earnest message about discovering the magic in the world and finding the family that suits you. (Fiction. 8-12)