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Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder

Fly away with Magonia, Maria Dahvana Headley’s novel that mixes mysterious illness with magical realism.

Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder

BOOK REPORT for Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

Cover Story: Too Many Cooks
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Magical Realism
Bonus Factor: I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens ...
Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Series Starter
Relationship Status: Swept Away

Cover Story: Too Many Cooks

Although the colors are lovely, and I’d like the various pieces quite a bit, were they separate or alone, the mix of everything makes for a not-so-cohesive whole. The Neil Gaiman quote definitely drew my eye the most—but after reading the quote a few times, I realized it’s not really about the book but the author. (Though—who am I kidding? If Neil Gaiman said something so awesome about me, I’d get it tattooed.)

The Deal:

Aza Ray Boyle has spent her entire life as the girl with the unusual illness that keeps her thisclose to dying. No doctors have been able to figure out exactly what is wrong with her—to the point where her illness is named after her—and Aza has lived much longer than doctors predicted, but as her 16th birthday draws near, Aza’s body struggles more and more.

After the worst episode ever, Aza wakes up changed … and aboard a ship that’s manned by birds and flying amongst the clouds in the region of Magonia.

BFF Charm: Yay

Despite her dire prognosis, Aza remains a firecracker. She knows how she’s seen to everyone around her, particularly to the other kids in her high school, but doesn’t let it get her down. In fact, she revels in her “weirdness.” She can be a bit rude at times, but no more so than any other teenager. And, I wouldn’t have ever blamed her for letting her disease make her bitter, but more than anything, she just wants to live while she can. I can totally appreciate that outlook on life. Even after everything goes sideways, she keeps her wits about her and proves to everyone that she’s stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Aza’s best friend Jason is the one person in her life that doesn’t tiptoe around her. He treats her with respect and enjoys her weirdness, possibly because he’s more than a little weird himself. But their relationship has always been on the level of just friends … until the night that everything changes.

Talky Talk: Magical Realism

Magonia starts out like certain other contemporary reads: girl has an illness and is struggling to make her peace with what might be a too-short life. Thankfully, it veers away from Sparksonian territory quickly, when Aza begins “hallucinating” ships floating in the sky. Maria Dahvana Headley has a unique writing style that blends realism and fantasy into a somewhat confusing, but supremely entertaining story. Her characters have strong, believable, quirky personalities that made me want to be their friends. And the idea of Magonia is a fascinating one. The transition from contemporary story to fantasy, however, was slightly jarring, and I would have appreciated a bit more world building to make the two halves blend better.

Bonus Factor: I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens ...

While they’re investigating the possible reasons for Aza’s hallucinations, she and Jason discuss the history and mythology behind Magonia, which, in the world of the book, is a kooky conspiracy theory along the lines of UFOs. I appreciate the backstory Dahvana Headley crafted to give the idea real weight. And in looking up the idea, it turns out that there is a real-world basis for “a cloud realm from which felonious aerial sailors come”: Carolingian bishop Agobard of Lyon’s 815 treatise arguing against weather magic, De Grandine et Tonitruis.

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Series Starter

Although I look forward to being able to visit this world again, I didn’t finish the book needing more. It was open-ended, but didn’t feature a cliffhanger, and I’d be OK with simply imagining Aza’s happily ever after.

Casting Call:

Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Aza

Relationship Status: Swept Away

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from our time together, Book, but was pleasantly surprised at the unusual tales you told. You’re quite a storyteller, and even if your stories are more than a little outlandish, I enjoyed listening to you tell them and getting caught up in your words.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book, and I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Magonia 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.
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