Monday, September 27, 2010

The Magic Half

Annie Barrows (Ivy and Bean) is a good writer. I like her storytelling, love her use of detail, enjoy the way she unfolds her characters. However, Annie Barrows does one thing that gets under my skin. She has her characters swear. She doesn't do it a lot, but that fact that she does it at all annoys the heck out of me because it's always completely gratuitous.
gratuitous: lacking in benefit; uncalled for or lacking a reasonable basis. In other words, NOT NECESSARY.

Sometimes swearing is critical to the realism of the story. Mexican Whiteboy wouldn't work without a certain grittiness that the swearing adds to the characters and events. It's a tough neighborhood and it wouldn't be believable for the characters to run around saying "Fudge!" But The Magic Half would work just fine without the OMGs and the one "Christ Almighty" which marred an otherwise excellent story.

Eleven year old Miri is the middle child between two sets of twins -- "a one-in-50,000 family" her dad likes to say. But Miri feels isolated. Now in their new house, Miri finds a piece of glass stuck to the wall of her room. She looks through it and finds herself in 1935. Here she meets Molly, who has "called her" to help "set things right" -- though precisely how they're going to do that, neither of them is sure. Molly is similarly isolated, living with an aunt and two cousins who see her as a nuisance and a burden. One cousin, Horst, loses no opportunity to make Molly's life as miserable as possible, even to the point of physically harming her when he can get away with it.

The story does a nice job of transitioning back and forth from the present to 1935. Molly and Miri are believable, as are the other kids in the story, Miri's twin sisters and brothers. It's suspenseful, it's well written, it's got a nice ending. It's such a great story...

Just wish Annie Barrows would lose the swearing.

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