Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Witch Boy

The Witch Boy
by Molly Knox Ostertag
Recommended Ages: 12+

I had a fit of Amazon book ordering one day, and I bought this Scholastic title and another that looked vaguely like it. When the books arrived, I was dismayed to find out two things about them: first, that they are graphic novels, which is not my preferred format for reading material; and also, that I had somehow found my way into the LGBTQ+ Edification and Reeducation section of the Scholastic catalog. Since at least part of the target audience of my long-running series of book reviews is Christian families who read together, I'm mentioning that up front so they can decide how much farther to read. This book is definitely a candidate for an Occult Content Advisory, thanks to the Pagan/New Age/Wiccan outlook on magic that it espouses.

OK, now that we've settled that, to the book. Aster is part of an extended family that lives separate from society as we know it, practicing forms of magic passed down through generations of their family. Traditionally, the boys and men are all shape-changers, each male hewing toward the form of his personal spirit-animal, while the females are witches who deal in charms and potions. In defiance of his family's values, Aster feels drawn toward the feminine side of magic, as well as to a non-magical girl named Charlie who encourages him to practice the witchcraft forbidden him by his family. Meantime, an evil force is at loose in the woods, causing the disappearances of Aster's cis-male cousins (and by the way, part of me died just now). It's apparent that at the root of this bad magic is someone who didn't distinguish properly between the male and female principles of his family's gifts.

I'm sure it's all very encouraging for people who desire affirmation of their chosen gender, but I personally found it preachy and unappealing. I had a hard-time sympathizing with the whiny brat factor of the hero kids, perhaps because of the age range the author targeted. At the end of the book, the author throws in some panels from earlier drafts of the work which, in my opinion, would have gone over better - such as an older, more mature Asher. I also found many of the scene transitions awkward and in some cases confusing, and the thought inevitably crossed my mind that it might have been a more successful story written out in prose. But it is what it is, and unfortunately, I'm not made to find this book very entertaining. For those who are thus made, Ostertag has created some follow-up titles of a similar nature, with such titles as The Hidden Witch and The Midwinter Witch.

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