So You Want to be a Wizardcame along well before the current trend of young fantasy so one shouldn’t dismiss it as “yet another Harry Potter follower.” Wizard centers on 13-yr-old Nita, a picked-upon young teen, and 12-yr-old Kit, another lonely young teen. Nita, taking refuge from bullies in the local library, stumbles across the reference book providing the title of the novel and into the world of wizardry. Shortly afterward, she meets up with Kit, who himself has just become a wizard.
While the two of them have their share of whimsical uses for their magic (revenge on the bullies, tracking down a stolen pen), wizardry is not play. To become wizards each has taken a life-long oath that boiled down means they’re responsible at all times for pretty much everything — life (and “life” doesn’t simply mean human life) and the universe — and may be asked to sacrifice themselves in the service of life.
Despite the underlying seriousness of their adventures (a clash between the One — the creator — and the Lone One who left the One’s service and brought death/entropy into the world), there is also quite a bit of humor and light play, especially involving a white hole as a character. The parallel universes Nita and Kit find themselves in are vividly original and the Manhattan that arises in the climactic battle against the Lone One is beautifully captured.
So You Want to be a Wizard moves along at a quick pace, the characters themselves are likeable and realistic and better yet, develop as the story goes along and as the series goes along as well, deepening into their maturing roles as wizards and as young adults. Despite the magical storylines, there is a nice down-to-earth feel about the books, a matter-of-fact atmosphere that makes suspension of disbelief quite easy with regard to the magic. This first book is a good book on its own, but the series improves as it goes along for the most part and a reader who sticks with it is rewarded with more full explanations and better, deeper characters. Recommended.