Reviewed by Jasmine Sov, age 17
Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa
For “Salem’s biggest skeptic and non-witchy person”, Eleanor deals with a lot of witchy things. After a traumatic year of lost friendship and broken hearts, she’s been working at a family friend’s witch-themed gift shop to help her mom pay the bills. When a mysterious tarot card guide arrives in the mail, she’s quick to dismiss the magic it promises. That is, until Pix, a pretty girl she met at the shop, invites her to join a real witch coven. Despite being a massive cynic, Eleanor decides to give it—and a budding romance—a shot. But Eleanor’s past still weighs down on her, and it’s threatening to ruin her second chance. Can she come to terms with her past and work out the challenges of the present?
In a fresh twist on the urban fantasy genre, “Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches” lands on the real side of magical realism. Pix and the coven practice pagan rituals and spells, and their response to how others view them and their beliefs is a significant part of the story. Eleanor is a well-developed character, albeit very much in need of therapy rather than a new relationship. Pix is also interesting, but we don’t get to know much about her other than that she is an eccentric girl who is very perceptive of others’ emotions. In fact, Pix is seemingly just there to help Eleanor heal—a “manic pixie dream girl”, if you will. Another questionable aspect of the book is that Eleanor is addicted to marijuana. Several parts of the book have Eleanor narrating how she smokes joints as a coping mechanism, even going so far as to step out from social gatherings to smoke. While it’s acknowledged that she needs to get healthier coping mechanisms, the arc isn’t resolved cleanly—her usage of marijuana is never mentioned again afterwards, leaving the reader wondering what exactly happened. “Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches” is promising in its unique concept, but less so in its characters.
3 stars out of 5 stars
Find this book in our catalog: Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches
Catalog Number: YA FIC SCELSA,K