Majix: Notes from a Serious Teen Witch is charming in both senses of the word. Told from the point-of-view of a fourteen-year-old Wiccan, Majix is a funny and heartwarming story about family, friends, and finding oneself. It isn’t quite a fantasy novel, though there’s arguably a little magical realism in it. For the most part, the “magic” is really psychology. I think believers and skeptics could enjoy this book equally.
It’s a little annoying at first. Kestrel “never call me Susan” Murphy comes off as something of a brat, and it takes a while to get used to her slangy narration. Meanwhile, her workaholic father and shopaholic mother are hardly candidates for Parents of the Year. When a row between Kestrel and her father results in dad having a heart attack, Kestrel is sent away to live in the town of Jurupa with her eccentric Aunt Ariel.
Aunt Ariel, who is also a witch, is a great role model for Kestrel, but it takes Kestrel a while to see past Ariel’s weight, white-light attitude, and offbeat fashion sense. Then there’s Kestrel’s new school, which is even less promising: Richard Milhous Nixon Union High, home of the Fighting Orthogonians and a hilarious school song. There, Kestrel encounters bullies, Mean Girls, a tyrannical principal – and maybe a few new friends.
Kestrel starts a journal (a.k.a. the novel), which she intends as a record of her magical progress. Instead, it becomes more of a diary about her life as she finds her footing in Jurupa. For the most part, it’s told in ordinary narrative, but Kestrel occasionally transcribes conversations in script format or breaks into the story with a list, such as “MAGICK I TRIED THAT DIDN’T WORK” or “HERE IS WHAT THERE IS ABOUT HOSPITALS THAT MAKES THEM HOSPITALS.” I thought I’d find this irritating, but instead it worked just fine and added to the “journal” feel.
Douglas Rees does a terrific job with Kestrel’s voice. Who’d have thought a sixtyish male author could conjure up a 14-year-old girl’s voice so well? Maybe he has some “majix” of his own…
Kestrel’s journey is compelling, and her character will be relatable to young adults who feel like they don’t quite fit in — and not-so-young adults who once felt that way. But this is far from an angstfest. Rees peppers Majix with plenty of humor (the chapter “Sticks” is coffee-through-the-nose funny) and moments of beauty.
If there’s anything about Majix that I’d complain about, it’s that some of the outcomes for Kestrel and her friends are almost too sunny to be believed. This is, however, a small quibble. After all, there are far worse things than spending a few hours in a world where underdogs can triumph by doing the right thing and being true to themselves.