By Maya Gold
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
There’s more than one way to be powerful . . .
It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva–sixteen and nearly friendless–makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.
Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush–and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there’s Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.
A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history–and her heart–before she can face the powerful truth.
I’ve always been fascinated by the history, theories and stories surrounding the Salem witch trials so I loved the creeptacular references to it in the synopsis of Spellbinding. I was hoping for a YA story with an unusual twist incorporating some of the Salem mythology, but the only thing unusual about Spellbinding was how many clichés and overused YA tropes were stuffed into a single story that I still was able to finish.
There may be a few stray spoilers included in my review. I was unhappy with the book and since I’m going to explain why, there will be some examples.
I want to start out by saying my displeasure wasn’t all because Banks is an unskilled author. Technically, Spellbinding is better than a lot of what’s passed through my Kindle lately, with blessedly proper punctuation and grammar and a style that made the story flow in spite of its flaws. I’ve read much worse books, but this is a waste of authorial skill and that really annoys me.
Abby is the quintessential YA MC: the oblivious swan waiting to be unveiled, the effortlessly brilliant nerd, the misunderstood and maligned “other” child left in a single parent home touched by tragedy and loss and the girl who has been chosen by fate to have mysterious powers that haven’t been seen in centuries. She has an unrequited crush on the gorgeous sports star that’s kind and popular but dating the nastiest mean girl at school who has her own clique of followers. Do I really need to go further? Just fill in the blanks – if you’ve read YA, you already know them.
Headaches and nightmares that she’s drowning have recently begun plaguing sixteen-year-old Abby. Spacing out in class due to lack of sleep and her crush on Travis, the school’s perfect jock, earns everyone an extra assignment: mapping their family trees. Her dad’s side is easy enough but her mother’s side sends Abby in search of answers in…wait for it…Salem. Because as she begins her search, she rather easily finds that there was someone involved in the witch trials with her mother’s name and coincidentally, she has a previously unknown relative who’s a little batty in a nursing home who’s the missing link Abby’s looking for. I’m loathe to even mention it, but as long as I’m whining about clichés, I have to give my examples: this relative who is barely lucid is able to speak to Abby in her mind and urgently delivers her a message that clearly warns her about her future as a powerful witch.
Abby’s already been having witchy twitches, doing little things like inadvertently causing things to happen whenever she thinks about them strongly enough. When she arrives in Salem, it feels right, as does her mysterious connection to the hot, enigmatic Rem, who seems to show up wherever she does. She easily finds a part-time job (mystical shop, ‘natch), a spell book that strangely falls into her hands and parking is never a problem.
Is there a love triangle? Well, we have a girl with witch powers and access to a spell book with a major crush and an odd connection to another hot guy in Salem, home of the witch trials she feels like she was a part of. Once Abby started flexing her paranormal powers, my favorite parts were those that flashed me back to Stephen King’s Carrie, since I love my crazy girls raining paranormal vengeance down on the horrible people. The ending was simply horrible though. There are deus ex machina that work and there are those that just leave me speechless in amazement over what they’ve done to the story. I have nothing to say about this one.
As I said, this somehow managed to be readable to me and finishing it wasn’t that difficult, even while I was grinding my teeth at its predictability and pieces of samey-ness to dozens of other books I’ve read. There’s no sexual content beyond kissing and the limited amount of violence might keep this suitable enough for the topmost upper middle grade readers.
I agonized over the distinction between giving Spellbinding a C or a D, because I kept thinking readability had to count for something. In the end though, this wasn’t a lack of pizzazz or something that fell flat. It was a book that missed the mark entirely for me because there wasn’t any originality. I wouldn’t write Gold off, because she has skill, but I’ll be waiting to read others’ reviews before I buy.
My Rating: D