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Magic or Madness

by Justine Larbalestier

Published by Razorbill / Penguin, 2005
271 pages
ISBN: 1-59514-022-0

Ages 12-15

Fifteen-year-old Reason is just discovering that she has inherited strong magical abilities. Her mother, Serafina, has always tried to shield her from the knowledge, and from her grandmother, Esmeralda, a powerful witch. Serafina has told Reason that Esmerelda is not to be trusted. But now Serafina has been committed to a mental institution, and Reason has been sent to Sydney to live with the grandmother she’s been taught to fear. Esmerelda’s next door neighbor, Tom, has a different perspective. A teenage boy who also possesses magic powers, Tom is being tutored by Esmeralda and sees her as a lifesaver. Reason finds Tom a kindred spirit, but she is determined to free her mother and escape to the bush, where they had been living. Instead, when she unlocks Esmerelda’s heavy kitchen door one hot summer day, she finds herself in New York City in the middle of winter. Unable to make her way home again, she is quickly rescued by another teenage girl, Jay-Tee, who seems to have been waiting for her to come through the door. Jay-Tee introduces Reason to the wonders of Lower Manhattan, and to the world of magic where everyone seems to know her grandmother, including a seemingly sinister man who is at odds with Esmerelda and claims to be Reason’s grandfather. Now Reason is not sure whom she should trust. Larbalestier’s skill at using alternating points of view will keep readers as uncertain as Reason is about whether her mother is truly mad, and whether her grandmother is good or evil. This gripping novel features rich parallel universes within wholly credible realistic settings in both hemispheres. Larbalestier is a name to know and a name to watch. Her first book (part of a planned trilogy) will appeal to those who enjoy the fantasy works of Margaret Mahy and Diana Wynne Jones. (KTH) ©2005 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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