It gives me an unreasonable amount of pleasure to note that my friend Justine Larbalestier’s first novel, Magic or Madness, has now hit the stores, and is ready for you to buy. It gives me unreasonable amount of pleasure because Justine’s a faboo human being, but more importantly, this is a really excellent novel — not just an excellent young adult novel (because that’s its categorization), but just a damn fine read. As of course any excellent YA novel would have to be; you can’t write an excellent novel for any audience segment, and not have it be a good novel, period.
And it’s not just me who thinks so: Krissy’s read MorM and proclaimed it to be excellent, and Krissy simply doesn’t have patience for a bad read (trust me on this, said the writer husband). Also, there’s the matter of the starred reviews in both Booklist and School Library Journal, which is more starred reviews than my book got, I’ll tell you that right now. Peruse the following gush from the School Library Journal:
Australian author Larbalestier has wrought beautiful and fearsome magic in this novel… Larbalestier’s sense of place and refreshing exploration of magic as a force for both good and evil make this novel unusual. By turns a fantasy adventure and a thoughtful examination of relationships, this radiant gem stands alone, but expect readers to be impatient for the rest of the trilogy.
The story (about a troubled girl who discovers a magic door that takes her from Australia to NYC — and all the implications about the very fact of that door) is tight, tense, vibrantly written, and also a story that’s not a rehash or retread. Best of all, Justine’s authorial voice is clear and strong and doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. I can actually hear Justine in it, but I suspect even people who don’t actually know her will pick up on her distinctive tone. That’s cool in my book.
If you’ve got a young reader in the house who is on the hunt for good contemporary fantasy, now you know where to go. Be sure not to steal it from them before they finish. That’s just rude.
And congratulations to Justine on her debut! You only get one first novel, and she’s done it right.
(While I’m boosting Justine, I’d be remiss not to note that the second installment of Scott “I’m Justine’s Husband” Westerfeld’s Midnighters YA series — Touching Darkness — is also out this month and awaiting your consideration. I haven’t read it yet, so I cannot yet gush about it, but you may recall the first book in the series is an award winner, and the aforementioned School Library Journal suggests in its review that it is “guaranteed to fly off the shelves.” Would that we all had such guarantees about our books.)