Book review: "The Magic Misfits" by Neil Patrick Harris (audiobook)

The Magic Misfits I came across “The Magic Misfits” as I was browsing the newest releases at my favourite Indigo store. I was thrilled to find out that Neil Patrick Harris wrote a book! The cover looked so adorable that I couldn’t wait to read it. Since I occasionally struggle with middle-grade books, I went to my favourite option - that is an audiobook.

“The Magic Misfits” has a gorgeous cover! And for once, I can’t decide whether I like US or UK edition better!

The Magic Misfits UK edition

Synopsis

 

From beloved award-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris comes the magical first book in a new series with plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso, and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.

 

Review

 

“The Magic Misfits” is read by Neil Patrick Harris himself and it was a treat to my ears. I should not have expected anything less than a stellar performance from him, but I was still thrilled. He has a perfect voice range and goes from low and grumbly to high pitched. Neil also performs all the songs in the story, and that was just an added bonus! The audiobook is only 4 hours long, so I went through it fairly quickly.

My admiration for Neil’s performance, I was a bit bored by the plot. It is a cute story about an almost orphaned runaway boy who finds his place in the world and his new family. Everything from Carter’s backstory (which really reminded me of Oliver Twist for some reason) to the magic shop and carnival, to the group of unpopular kids - it all has been done before.

What has not been done before is this amount of diversity in a middle-grade book, and that representation is not the focus of the main story and nobody is given grief or bullied for whatever they represent. And that is a big deal! We have characters of colour, disabled characters, foster and adoptive families, as well as LGBTQ+ representation. In one middle-grade novel. I mean, c’mon! This book has to be a bestseller at least for that!

Sadly, I had issues with the plot, especially the very ending. The conflict seemed to have been resolved as if by magic (which it was, in a way). The book has filler chapters in which the author addresses the readers directly, breaking the fourth wall (which is my least favourite device as it keeps taking me out of the story), and provides instructions to future magicians on how to do tricks. It is a lovely concept and will, undoubtedly, appeal to the younger audience, but for me, it was all more of a nuisance. Overall, it felt as if the book was targeted at the younger side of the middle-grade scale. I mean, sometimes the author even explained certain words to the listeners! It felt as if it was not a recording but a real person reading the story, which is excellent, but I am obviously too old for that kind of narration.

It is hard to rate the book without taking into account the brilliant performance by Neil. So, I am going to give the book a half-star more for the narration and representation, although the plot left more to be desired. It was a cute story, but not a very original one.

However, since “The Magic Misfits” is only the first book in the series (a quartet?), I have hopes that the plot will improve with the sequel, and I definitely plan to continue reading the series.

 

Performance: 5 stars Plot: 2.5 stars Overall: 3.5 stars

 

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Book review: "Under Rose-Tainted Skies" by Louise Gornall (audiobook)

Under Rose-Tainted Skies There has to be more than just a high rating on GoodReads to make me pick up a YA contemporary novel by the author I have never read books by previously. But after watching Emma’s video on mental health representation in YA books and "Under Rose-Tainted Skies" being highly recommended, I decided to pick it up from the library on a whim. I wanted a short-ish audiobook to listen to in-between my other books.

 

Synopsis

 

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

 

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

 

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

 

Review

 

Allow me to preface my review by stating that immediately after starting "Under Rose-Tainted Skies", I realized that it was in a certain way reminiscent of “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon, which in its turn put pressure on me in regards of the final rating. I struggled and went between 4 and 5 stars a couple of times before I finally settled on 4.25 stars, as I am writing this. Giving less stars to "Under Rose-Tainted Skies" felt extremely unfair as I liked it more for its very true and direct depiction of mental illness than “Everything, Everything” (which I read and reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed, but at the time of reading it, I did not consider the fact that some part of the plot can be damaging to some people - I was just swept by the cuteness of the story, which, honestly, does not happen often). Therefore, I am going to lower my rating of “Everything, Everything” both in my review and on GoodReads.

 

I loved “Everything, Everything” when I read it. There are some aspects of it which I can relate to, and I mentioned it in my review. But now, especially after having read "Under Rose-Tainted Skies", I don’t think “Everything, Everything” deserves full 5 stars. It is a great debut novel by an author of colour with the main character of colour, and I met Nicola and told her that I absolutely loved it. And I stand by my opinion. However, the way the plot is constructed - without giving anything away - it can not and will not compare in the impact and importance of “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” in portraying a long-term illness. It is my personal opinion, however, and it in no way diminishes anybody else’s opinion or the hard work that both authors put into their books.

 

What I am trying to say here is that I shouldn’t have given “Everything, Everything” more than 4 stars on GoodReads, but I felt pressured to as this book was very overhyped.

 

If you haven’t gathered from my confusing intro, I loved "Under Rose-Tainted Skies", and in some ways, it worked for me much better than “Everything, Everything”.

 

"Under Rose-Tainted Skies" is a story about a girl who has agoraphobia, general anxiety, depression, and OCD. It is the most honest and true depiction of anxiety that I have ever seen in young adult fiction. The book is “own voices” too as the author herself suffers from agoraphobia and anxiety.

 

The story is a typical young adult contemporary romance otherwise with a mysterious but alluring boy moving next door and how much of a difference he makes in the main protagonist’s life. I am not a huge fan of contemporary YA, but I think the romance was done well and had some believable problems which were not just magically resolved by the end of the book, for which I am very grateful. It made the story more realistic and relatable.

 

All supporting characters in the book are lovely, and I liked the fact that we get to see Norah’s visits and conversations with the psychiatrist.

 

I enjoyed it. Even the twist at the end came as a very plausible scenario. I can not recommend this book highly enough if you want to read more books about mental health and “own voices”.

 

Rating: 4.25 stars

 

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