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You’re Not A Wizard, Ava (But You Might Be Something Equally Cool)

Carol Goodman’s Blythewood is reminiscent of both Harry Potter and The Diviners, but in a way that doesn’t distract from the entertaining story within.

You’re Not A Wizard, Ava (But You Might Be Something Equally Cool)

BOOK REPORT for Blythewood (Blythewood #1) by Carol Goodman

Cover Story: Photoshopped Etsy Listing
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Avaline Hall and the Secrets of Blythewood
Bonus Factors: Fantastical Boarding School, Mysterious Loner Dude
Relationship Status: After Lights Out Convos

Cover Story: Photoshopped Etsy Listing

At first glance, I actually kind of like this necklace. But why it’s hanging in front of a spooky purple forest and a murder of shadowy crows (or an unkindness of ravens?), I’m not sure. It looks like a photo someone might have mocked up for an Etsy listing for a “Gothic Charm Necklace with Wings, a Clock, a Bell and Swarovski Crystal Elements.” (It would fit right in.)

I do like this ARC cover better than the final one, however.

The Deal:

One fine day, while going for a walk in Central Park, Avaline Hall and her mother spot a man clad in an Inverness cape and Homburg hat. Ava’s mother—who was severely frightened by the sight—descends into a depression and develops a laudanum addiction, which leads to her death. To make ends meet, Ava is forced to go to work as a seamstress at the Triangle Waist factory. After working there for a few months, Ava is surprised to see the same strange man, clad in the same strange garb, speaking with the factory’s foreman. When a mysterious young man tells her to leave the premises immediately, she ignores him, only to be caught in a terrible fire. Ava is rescued by the mysterious young man, only to black out and wake up, drugged and held prisoner in a mental institution.

All is not lost for Ava, however, when the secretary of her estranged grandmother saves her from the institution. Soon, Ava finds herself the newest student of the esteemed girls’ school Blythewood, where she happens to be a legacy. But all of the mystery in Ava’s life isn’t over quite yet, for when she gets to school, she discovers much more than the typical science and English classes.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Even after all of the terrible crap that happens to her in a matter of months—mother’s suicide, factory fire, involuntary institutionalization—Ava remains a strong and likeable young woman. She’s intelligent, even though she’s never had proper schooling, and can hold her own with the richest of the Blythewood rich girls, even though she grew up with very little. She’s not completely impervious to doubt, though, but that just makes her character even more real. Were I a fellow student at Blythewood, I’d much rather hang out with Ava than any of the entitled, humorless mean girls, regardless of what social connections they might have.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Why is it that a relationship with a MLD is pretty much always swoonworthy, no matter the situation or what happens once the mystery becomes less mysterious? Ava’s relationship with her MLD is no exception, even though the relationship is more dreams and fleeting touches than anything hot and heavy. I’ve said it before, but I’ll continue to say it time and time again: Sometimes the anticipation is better than the actuality.

Talky Talk: Avaline Hall and the Secrets of Blythewood

A poor orphan girl ends up at a fancy boarding school that’s not exactly normal. A mysterious and sinister figure with a dark secret preys on a young girl in 1920s New York. If you’re thinking that these plots sound familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. In Blythewood, Carol Goodman takes themes of a few well-known books and stories (namely Harry Potter and The Diviners) and adapts them into a story that, while feeling familiar, doesn’t feel like a photocopy. It doesn’t hurt that I enjoyed both influencers a whole lot, or that Goodman has written a story set in the 1920s that feels old-fashioned but isn’t bogged down in the lingo of the era.

Bonus Factor: Fantastical Boarding School

I wish I could go back in time and somehow convince my parents to let me attend a boarding school with some sort of secretive or magical education program. OK, sure, these types of schools aren’t exactly real—and, you know, time travel doesn’t exist—but that’s never stopped me from trying!

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

From the moment Ava meets Blythewood’s MLD in the Triangle Waist factory, there’s an undeniable connection. Ava dreams about him frequently, and in every dream his touch makes her feel warm and content, and utterly safe. When the two finally meet “officially,” there’s no lack of sparks, even when his true nature is revealed.

Casting Call:

Rose Leslie as Ava

Diego Boneta as the MLD

Relationship Status: After Lights Out Convos

Well, Book, you’ve got me. Even with the familiarity of your themes, your story was fun and filled with a few surprises. I know you’ve got even more to tell, so can we be roomies next year? I’d love to have hushed conversations with you long after lights out.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Viking. I received neither breakfast tacos nor money for this review. Blythewood is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.