Goodreads: How to Succeed in Witchcraft
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Publisher Giveaway
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
An overachieving teen witch vies for a prestigious scholarship at her elite high school in this contemporary YA fantasy for fans of Never Have I Ever and Sabrina the Teen Witch!
Magically brilliant, academically perfect, chronically overcommitted…
Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. Now that she’s a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s one step closerto winning the full-ride Brockton Scholarship–her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her main competition? Ana freaking Alvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.
When Mr. B persuades Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive, racially diverse musical—at their not-quite-diverse school–she agrees, wearily, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But with rehearsals underway, Shay realizes Ana is…not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could even be a friend–or more. And Shay could use someone in her corner once she finds herself on the receiving end of Mr. B’s unpleasant and unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when the scholarship–and her future–are on the line?
An unforgettable debut, How to Succeed in Witchcraft conjures up searing social commentary, delightfully awkward high school theater, and magical proclamations of love.
How to Succeed in Witchcraft is a creative and moving story that brings readers to a world that functions very similarly to ours–except it’s magic! Protagonist Shay Johnson faces the same pressures as many high schoolers, taking a full load of AP courses in subjects like Potions and Transfiguration and competing hard for a free-ride scholarship to a magical licensing college. Author Aislinn Brophy seamlessly blends her rich magical world building with these real world concerns, creating a story that is sure to stick in readers’ minds after the last page is turned.
I do admit that, although I very much liked this book, it was at times difficult to read. While Shay’s fixation on academic excellence and balancing too many activities she’s trying to stuff onto her resume can be relatable, and her blossoming relationship with academic rival Ana is just as charming as the actual magic in the book, I hesitate to call the overall book “delightful” as some other reviewers have. At its heart, this book is still about a high school teacher being a predator and grooming underage students so . . . it was actually stressful for me to read at times. I cringed and gagged and really didn’t want to watch this teacher being a creep. The book is very well done and shows how the teacher starts small and builds up, and how his behavior is excused by 99% of people by innocent, and how there are rumors about his hooking up with students but no one seems to care — all the things that, unfortunately, happen in these situations in our own world. It’s sensitive and moving and deeply realistic. But I hesitate to say it was “fun” to read!
So I can see why a lot of the other reviews I’ve seen have focused on the other aspects of the book. Aislinn’s relationship with her best friend, who is bright and talented but can’t seem to get accepted into a magical licensing college and (in Aislinn’s eyes) might have to “settle” for a lesser school. Her relationship with Ana, the other top contender for the coveted college scholarship, whom Aislinn has hated since freshman year. Her time practicing for the high school musical, since the creepy teacher convinced her to join theatre after implying it would boost her scholarship application. All these things are well done, too, and I do think they help keep the book light. Aislinn gets to have fun with her friends, and flirt, and learn all about the highs and lows of theatre. She has such a great high school experience in many ways, and anyone who was in their own high school drama department, or who spent far too many late nights studying for AP courses, or who worried about how to pay for college, will doubtless see a bit of their own lives in hers.
How to Succeed at Witchcraft is an amazing blend of fantasy and contemporary that speaks on important issues while also incorporating a bit of whimsy. Brophy is an author to watch.