fascinate

Review From User :

I recieved an ARC from Edelweiss
TW: Homophobia, hate speech, cults, parental abuse
4.6
Sam's senior year is already looking more precarious than he'd planned- his friendship with James, best friend and long term crush, crossed a line during the summer they haven't been able to talk about, and the latter is now acting completely strange, and The Fascinators, the magic club that's always consisted of just the three of them, suddenly has a new member. And still all of that begins to shrink when compared to what James has been hiding- a brush with a cult like group with big plans, and their hearts set on revenge.

I have to start this by saying that calling this a gay(er) TRC definitely caught my attention, but in reality it far closer to the truth to say this book is basically what would have happened if Rainbow Rowell wrote Reverie (though that doesn't sound quite as snappy on the dust jacket).
If you like messy friendships, misfits, dark cults, and lots of magic, I think you're really going to like this book. This is a world where magic exists, and doesn't even exactly seem to be rare to have some quantity of, but using it still marks you more or less as a freak. It's a book about a misfit being a misfit no matter the world, being true to yourself whether or not it feels good to do, and not comparing yourself to other people. And, frankly, I'm here for it!

I love the spiraling quality of this book. You never quite know where you're going, or what layer you're on. You have to deal with school, personal life, and getting out of a cult's bad graces, and life is too messy to keep those things in organized pockets. The focus is changed back and forth exceptionally well, unlike in books where the romance takes center stage throughout or where a mundane vein of the story drowns out the fantastic.

It's hard to talk too much about characters without getting into spoilerish details, but I love Sam a lot, and the quality of his friendships really punches me in the gut. Most of the characters in this book have a strange, almost emanating way to them, so that even if they aren't well rounded or super dynamic, you feel the pull of them, and you understand their role not just in the story but in the world. (I'll talk about the exception to this rule in a little bit).

The magic, the magic, I loved the magic. I loved the idea of magic as a lame-ish school competition. I loved how the magic was kind of like the weird, theoretic magic in Sarah Gailey's Magic For Liars (I'm a sucker for magic that actually needs a lot of thought and studying and is hard to conceptualize). The magic used in a social way was really striking to me as well- the fact that most people clearly do have magic, but it's considered weird, or dangerous, or unchristian to use it. Oh, also, the conversation about religion was stellar in this book. This isn't a book where people do flashy spells for fun, but it's also not a book where people pull out their hair and seek out offerings for some uncontrollable supernatural force, it's perfectly in the middle, and it makes it so, so easy to love.

When it comes down to the things I didn't like in this book, or that disappointed me, I can separate it into two major things. The first is Denver. Denver is, hypothetically, cute and charming and perfect, but man I never felt like he was an actual character. He was the only one without a thing and oomph-quality that made him impactful and feel real. I wasn't rooting for him, I basically forgot he existed until he came back onto the page.
The other issue, is that there are places where the circuit just isn't connected. You don't feel true closure at the end, because there seems to be some missing pieces. We need more time with Denver and Sam having chemistry, we need Sam coming to terms with things for a longer period of time, or at least some space between a revelation and an ending, we need more conversations about the fact that Sam was initially trying to remember his dreams if you want that to be some big, meaningful call back at the end. (Or make dreaming a bigger theme). And, a small spoiler rant: (view spoiler)[you need to make that "getting over James" montage clearer. You can't say they felt safe together and James wanted to kiss him and then jump directly to Sam understanding they'll never be together. I was hoping for a conversation, or an organic loss of romantic feelings, or, honestly, I would have been happy with the fact that James only kissed him out of spite and really didn't care acting as the revelation if that other stuff had just never been included. Also, while we're on the topic, it's implied they were seeing the same memories, so were they hearing each other's thoughts Feeling each other's emotions Was James also thinking about how he kissed Sam Because that's not a good "getting over him" ending! Again, god, they should have had a conversation. (hide spoiler)]

This book is a lot of fun, and has a whole lot of emotions involved. It's just a little devastating while also never failing to feel real and teenaged and fantastic. I'm definitely shoving this into some people's hands when it come out.


original comments below
Listen- I don't know what The Raven Boys meets Simon Vs. the Homosapien Agenda is supposed to mean, but sign me up.

*Update*
Oh no they added a cover and I kind of love it


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