After graduation, prom night is often the penultimate event in the life of a high school senior. Students may save, plan and dream about the night for months or even years prior to going. So what happens when the prom doesn’t go the way you planned? What if something truly unexpected, like death, mars the evening? What do you do and who do you call? This is the set up for Sarah Gailey’s latest, and first Young Adult novel, When We Were Magic. This novel definitely has a crossover appeal for adults.
Alexi’s prom night, overall, has not gone as she planned. Oh, a few things went exactly as she knew they would. She knew that if she started flirting with Josh Harper early in the evening, he would jump at the opportunity. She knew that if she initiated a make-out session during the party at his house after the prom, where everyone could see them, that he would go along. And she knew that if she suggested that they go up to his room to have sex, he would happily agree. What wasn’t part of her plan: Josh is now dead. One minute he was alive, the next, after a lot of blood, he wasn’t. Alexi immediately calls her best friends: Iris, Marcelina, Maryam, Paulie, and Roya. They have all known each other since they were small children and they all know, when things get tough, they can rely on each other without fail. They also share one other thing: they can all perform magic. Each has a different focus or type, but they are all able to do things that are seemingly impossible. Alexi knows that her magic is what killed Josh, she just doesn’t know how or why. With the help of her friends, and their powers, will they be able to figure out what to do about the dead boy in front of them?
In this novel Sarah Gailey has written a compelling and thoughtful examination of how it feels to be a teenager. She has created six very different, diverse, and fully realized young women, who are wonderful windows into the extremes experienced at this age. This is especially true of the novel’s protagonist, Alexi. Gailey uses Alexi to highlight how it often feels like the emotions being experienced are either the absolutely best, or the worst possible. It also seems, to many teens, that there are some things that are known with unquestionable certainty, while the smallest doubts may cause crippling insecurities. This is particularly true in Gailey’s portrayal of first love: the doubts, the fears, the bliss that occurs from the slightest attention, and the despair that can come from a perceived slight from the object of your affections.
The magic Gailey uses in the book is powerful and unpredictable. There are also costs, sometimes severe, for its use. The young women who wield it are not entirely sure how it works and are continually experimenting with it. Gailey places the reader alongside her characters in learning what the best way is to address Josh’s unintended death. The resolution is believable and has consequences. When Were Magic is an enjoyable and insightful read with just the right amount of magic!
Check out a recent interview with the author.