Windy City Magic, Book 1 The Best Kind of Magic
Cystal Cestari’s debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, is an inventive, sassy, and unique spin on a YA paranormal romance novel. Our protagonist, Amber Sand, is an anomaly in her family’s magical gene pool; she is too weak to be a full witch, but she does have one particular talent. She can see your soul mate with just a few minutes of eye contact for everyone except herself. She is a matchmaker doomed to be loveless because whenever she gazes into the eyes of a boy she is crushing on, all she can see is the woman he’s destined to end up with. So she spends her days hating school and everyone in it except for her one friend who happens to see the future, and her evenings and weekends are filled with working at the family magic store, offering her matchmaking services for a small fee. She was resigned to her lot in life, if not particularly happy about it, when the catch of her school asked her for help. Son of Chicago’s mayor and every girl’s dream boy, Charlie Blitzman wants her to determine if his future step-mother is his father’s true love or just the gold-digger he suspects. And he further enlists her help in proving to his father that the woman he thinks he loves is not a match.
The paranormal romance genre has become increasingly popular lately and as such has been glutted with books that are plagued with problems. This is not the case with The Best Kind of Magic. The plot is well developed, the characters all have deeper motivations driving them, and the choices the characters make are actually sensible and understandable (for the most part, they are teenagers, so some allowances for silly choices must be made). At a sentence level, the writing is superb. It is witty, precise, and well formed; Cestari never simplifies herself for her audience and is as unapologetic for her snarky writing as the protagonist Amber is about her abilities. It is lyrical and carries you quickly through the narrative, contributing greatly to the fluidity of the novel.
And let’s not forget the driving force of the story: love. Not only is Amber a love-sick teenager, her whole life revolves around helping people find their true love. As such, she has a particularly unique view on love and dating, and she toys with the ideas of predestination and what it means to date as a teenager. I feel this is a particularly apt metaphor for young love since every time a pre-teen or teenager falls in love, they are sure it is the most monumental love there ever has been and they will be with their beloved for all time. Instead, we’re presented with a discussion of what do you do when you know for certain that people have a predestined true love, so what is dating for? What happens if someone doesn’t like his or her predicted beloved? Should Amber date, knowing all the while that her significant other’s sweetheart is somewhere near by? Cestari allows her characters to grapple with these concepts while staying away from trite and cliché melodrama.
Overall, The Best Kind of Magic is one of the most enjoyable novels in its genre, from writing to character development and plot, and I am eagerly waiting to see what Cestari has for us next.
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