Coming-of-age goes supernatural in three spellbinding YA books featuring teen witches with amazing abilities and major magic. Toil, trouble and the curses of adolescence are no match for their power!
Edie in Between
In Laura Sibson’s Edie in Between, Edie Mitchell treasures the silver acorn pendant her mother gave her, but she avoids nearly every other aspect of her heritage. Edie comes from a long line of witches, but the 17-year-old considers magic something to be avoided rather than embraced.
Since her mother’s recent death, Edie has been living with her grandmother, GG, in the small town of Cedar Branch, where she refuses to touch the herbs and small bones hanging in the kitchen or interact with the inquisitive ghosts of her ancestors who like to float around the houseboat they share with a cat named Temperance. Her mother is a ghostly presence, too, but Edie won’t chat with her like GG does; she’s “a constant reminder of what I’ve lost.”
Edie manages her longing for her former Baltimore home and her uncertainty about the future by going on daily runs with her new friend, Tess. But when a threatening force is accidentally roused, Edie’s reluctance to embrace magic becomes a liability. She must get up to speed on her powers before something terrible befalls her and those she cares about—including the beautiful and appealing Rhia, an aspiring witch who’s delighted to share with Edie what she’s learned about magic thus far.
The discovery of her mom’s old journal proves pivotal to Edie’s rushed education. Each entry hints at something Edie must find or do and opens a window into her mother’s life before she became pregnant. Sibson (The Art of Breaking Things) draws the past into the present with empathy and skill, respecting the pain of Edie’s grief while allowing her to know her mother in a way she might not have otherwise.
Edie in Between is a winning portrait of a girl’s evolution from embarrassment to openly embracing what makes her different, including celebrating her magical kinship with the witches who came before her.
The Witch Haven
When 17-year-old seamstress Frances Hallowell discovers her powers in The Witch Haven, she is horrified, relieved and hopeful. It’s 1911 in New York City, and after a violent attack on her life, Frances is appalled to realize she may have killed her attacker with her emotions. Thankfully, two nurses suddenly appear on the scene and whisk her away to Haxahaven Sanitarium, helping her avoid police suspicion and catapulting her into an astonishing new chapter of her life.
That’s because the nurses are witches and Haxahaven isn’t a medical facility. Instead, it’s a 200-year-old school for the magical, complete with dramatic architecture, noisy dining hall and imperious headmistress. Now that Frances’ powers have been awakened, Haxahaven will help her use them for good.
And that’s where the hopefulness comes in, as magic holds both the promise of a better future and the solution to a more immediate problem: Can Frances’ new powers help her find out what happened to her brother, William, who was found dead in the East River four months ago? Her grief is ever-present—“like a punch to the gut fifty times a day”—as is her desire to solve his murder and prevent others from suffering as he did.
Debut author Sasha Peyton Smith has created a compelling character in Frances. She’s smart and often funny, impulsive and occasionally frustrating as she makes decisions born of naivete and desperation, often with new friends Maxine and Lena in tow. The arrival of William’s friend Finn offers a way for Frances to learn meaningful magic (disappointingly, Haxahaven focuses on housekeeping-centric spells) and to investigate William’s death. There’s romantic potential between them, too, but Finn belongs to a gentlemen’s club full of power-hungry wizards. Should she judge him by the company he keeps?
The Witch Haven is an immersive excursion into early 20th-century New York City. Beneath the grit and darkness of the period, Smith layers in a supernatural underworld that intrigues Frances as much as it endangers her. The result is an atmospheric and mystical adventure that offers a realistic exploration of grief and a memorable take on coming-of-age tropes.
Bad Witch Burning
Katrell Davis suffers greatly in debut author Jessica Lewis’ Bad Witch Burning, enduring wrenching emotional pain, violent beatings and overwhelming exhaustion. Even so, the 16-year-old stubbornly insists on survival even when her options are meager and dangerous. She works 30 hours a week at a burger joint, trying to pay the rent and bills for the decrepit townhouse where she lives with her neglectful mother and her mother’s abusive boyfriend, Gerald. She has a side gig, too: Using her magical powers, she conjures up her clients’ dead relatives, even though it causes her physical pain.
Her best friend, Will, loves to chat with her late grandma Clara, who warns Katrell that she must stop her seances: “You’ll burn down not only yourself, but everyone and everything around you.” Katrell pays Clara no mind; she’s got work to do. But when her hours at the burger joint are cut and Gerald kills her dog, Katrell’s anguish and rage burn hotter than ever, leading her to discover an even more powerful ability than merely communing with the dead. So what if people are crawling out of their graves and walking around? It’s a huge risk, but Katrell will figure it out, and she’ll monetize it.
A series of resurrections earns her more cash than she’s ever had—but more attention, too. As threatening types close in and Katrell realizes her powers aren’t completely under her control, Lewis’ story becomes an even wilder ride, its horror tinged with the darkest of humor as Katrell’s life hangs in the balance.
Bad Witch Burning is a powerful debut, a moving gift of a story from a writer who, per an author’s note included with advance editions of the book, worked through her own valid anger and emerged stronger on the other side to create a book “for girls who need to scream but smile instead.” It’s an exciting, harrowing supernatural tale filled with thrills, poignancy and heart.