The Graces Is the Witchy YA Novel of Your Dreams
Laure Eve's The Graces is at the top of my book recs this fall, and not just because it decorates my room for the season better than a pumpkin ever could. It's everything I never knew I wanted in a book about witches.
River, which is not her real name, moves to a small coastal town with her mother to escape some disturbing event that appears to be her own fault. SO VAGUE, but this exactly where Laure Eve wants us: with a lot of questions and marinating in the sense that something feels off—not unlike the dark, disconcerting elements that appeal so much to me in Coraline. Mix this with Tana French's The Secret Place, the overall feel of The Craft, and a pinch of Carry On, and you get what one review describes as "a creepy little story" in the best way possible.
High school would've been manageable with revenge spells, amiright. Source
When River discovers at her new school that the ethereal Grace siblings—Thalia, Fenrin, and Summer—are rumored to be witches, she does everything in her power to get them to notice her. But her obsession is not about having an in with the student body A-list; it's about decoding their potential witchiness, which is magnetic to her in a way that makes us think there must be *something else* going on here. (There is.)
Other than the plot twist (!), what you'll love is how Eve handles the magic: whereas Harry Potter spells are tangible and mostly straightforward, magic in Graces is murkier and constantly questioned. Are the Graces just having a bit of fun with the witch rumor while it lasts, or do their spells actually cause otherwise inexplicable incidents? River isn't sure, and the Graces aren't quite either. I love this deliberate uncertainty—how and why the characters question magic = all of us still waiting on our Hogwarts letters.
Our Spark team has been chatting about the surge of witches and spells in popular culture recently, and the consensus is that we've always been on board (Sparkitor Janet almost certainly cast a spell on someone in middle school; success not recorded). It's no wonder these worlds have always been so enticing, especially to young girls. When you grow up being conditioned into thinking you can't do the same things as boys, seeing a woman with a wand is pretty powerful.
To do magic, to cast spells, to be a Hermione/Buffy/Sabrina—these compel us when double standards are crawling everywhere and "to [verb] like a girl" is still kicked around as an insult.
Role model then, role model now. Source
This is exactly the narrative that The Graces plays into—a female protagonist in search of both herself and where she fits in to the world of magic. For a Guardian article, YA author Ruth Warburton comments:
Often the traditional way of looking at relationships in young-adult fiction is that the guy has all the power and the interesting life and the girl goes along for the ride, but that's not the whole story. Increasingly, we're trying to bring our daughters up to believe they can be the leader; they can have the adventure; they can do the cool stuff and one thing about witches is that they allow you to explore that moment when girls become teenagers and realise the power they have as women and how exhilarating that can be.
On that note, it's time to cast an emoji spell and tuck into The Graces, which I can say with confidence is the literary equivalent to allspice.
Are you so into it?