I loved this book. It was so different than anything I’d been reading recently. There’s mystery, there’s magic, there’s good characters with depth and motivations, and there’s much drama.

After the death of her free-spirited mother, sixteen-year-old Alex Lee must leave her home in northern California to live with her wealthy grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful, if unwilling, member of the Magnolia League, Savannah’s long-standing debutante society. She quickly discovers that the Magnolias have made a pact with a legendary hoodoo family, the Buzzards. The Magnolias enjoy youth, beauty and power. But at what price?

As in her popular adult novels, Crouch’s poignant and humorous voice shines in this seductively atmospheric story about girls growing up in a magical Southern city.

At the crux of it this book is about a girl, Alex, becoming disenchanted with life. The first half of the book has her being hit with disappointment after let down after disaster after tragedy. I was very intrigued by Alex’s character, not having met anyone like her in young adult fiction before. She had her dreads and her pot smoking, and her “I wanna save the world, one piece of litter at a time” attitude. She was refreshing. And then she was was corrupted. Her new family and friends offer her power and beauty and acceptance that she’s never had before. With everything else that has gone wrong in her life, I can understand why she went so far away from who she really was.

Even if one part made me extremely angry. I couldn’t tell if I was mad at the character for doing something, or if I was mad at the author for having the character do something that I felt was a little out of character for her. But I was mad. It was the most self-destructive thing we’d seen Alex do, including trying to go back to her boyfriend who didn’t care about her and was pressuring her into having sex. I was so mad. If I had been reading a real book, I’d have thrown it against the wall.

But I liked that it took Alex going so far, to find her real self. To find her motivation to do what has to be done.

When Alex first arrives in Savannah she is taken under the wing of two other girls from the Magnolia League, Madison and Hayes. I really wanted to hate these girls. I really thought I would hate them. And I really didn’t hate them. They were kind of awesome actually. Loyal and fierce, if a bit snobby and mean. I was surprised, pleasantly so, that the drama of the story all, or mostly, came from other sources. I’m not saying all three girls were the best of friends the entire book. But there was no backstabbing, there was no sabotaging. They were Magnolia Debutantes and that means they stick together. As Madison and Hayes say to each other near the beginng, “We don’t stab each other in the back… We stab each other in the front.”…and I am very much paraphrasing. Don’t quote me on that.

In fact the only one of the three who ever really betrays one of the other girls is Alex…and that was during the scene that made me ANGRY. I don’t like thinking about it.

And then, there’s Thaddeus. Sigh. He’s just so normal. And upstanding. And he just wants to get away from debutantes and hoodoo and all this crazyness the women of his family are mixed up in. I loved him. Especially at the end, he really proved himself over and over and well, I can’t say anything but I’m really interested in seeing how things turn out with him. I hope it all turns out well. Really, really hope.

The ending was both wonderful and upsetting and I’m really looking forward to the next one. As long as it has a happy ending. Though, with these characters, I’m not quite sure what would entail a happy ending.I can settle for a conclusive ending. Just not something with a bunch of loose ends. And I want Thaddeus and Alex to be together. And happy. I’m such a sap.

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