By Ekta R. Garg
April 8, 2015
Rated: Bypass it
Four friends intent on enjoying their last summer before high school find a secret hideout. Their ringleader is determined to make it a special place for the group, but when his little brother finds a mysterious hat that shares information by magic the friends start to wonder whether they’re in over their heads. Author Adrian Fogelin gives teen readers this promising but lagging plot in her latest book Some Kind of Magic.
Cass faces her last summer before high school with trepidation. She doesn’t want anything to change, especially between her and her “sort-of” boyfriend, Ben. Her best friend, Jemmie, has no qualms; in high school, she knows, she’ll get a chance to join the track team and make a mark for herself. Ben, too, is eager for change and doesn’t want to spend his entire summer shooting hoops; his best friend, Justin, just wants to keep his life together while his parents fight it out every day.
The four friends, along with Ben’s younger brother, Cody, start their vacation the way they start every summer—with impromptu basketball games and visiting one another’s houses. Just shy of seven years old, Cody knows he’s old enough to hang out with the “big kids” but often gets relegated to the role of bystander. One day as the big kids play a game of girls versus boys, he decides to go home instead of chasing the ball when it rolls out of bounds. When his mother offers him the chance to do some chores, Cody finds a hat that arrests his attention.
The hat belonged to Paul, the uncle who used to live with his family and years ago disappeared without a word. Cody puts on the hat and gets the sense that it wants to tell him something. He starts receiving messages that he knows the hat wants to share.
In the meantime Ben coaxes the others into going exploring, and they approach the woods. Despite repeated warnings from all of their parents to stay away from the area, Ben leads his friends into the middle of the trees. There they find the remains of a house that burned down in the past.
While the house no longer stands, the detached garage managed to escape whatever tragedy befell the family. Ben knows he and the others need to claim the garage as their summer hideout. Cody’s hat sends a message to proceed with caution, but Ben chooses to ignore it. What does a seven-year-old know about the boredom of summer anyway, he argues. Despite everyone’s reluctance, Ben forges ahead with his plans. As he and Justin start to investigate the origins of the house, though, he realizes it may share a connection with his family.
Author Adrian Fogelin gets the tone of teenagers mostly right, although readers will spend the first several chapters getting used to the alternating points of view. Each of the four friends gets to narrate a section of the book in first person, which will keep readers guessing at the start of that section until the identity of the narrator becomes clear from the context. Cody’s sections come in third person, and these parts of the book flow much better. Fogelin would have achieved more successful pacing if she’d kept all of the characters in the third person point of view.
Also, while Fogelin does an excellent job of setting the temperature for her story—all four kids manage to come up with inventive ways to describe the punishing summer heat—readers won’t know until more than halfway through the book that it’s set in Tallahassee. The location may not prove significant, but with so many people commenting on how hot it is readers will definitely begin to wonder where the characters live.
The mystery of Uncle Paul does get somewhat of a resolution, although incomplete, and while each character’s feelings remain clear their life stories don’t. Fogelin offers readers just enough to make readers wonder how these friends got into their specific situations in the first place. As is often the case in YA fiction most of the adults remain in the background, leaving the story lacking.
I recommend readers Bypass Some Kind of Magic.