ONCE A WITCH (Once a Witch #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
She was supposed to be the best of them. A beacon, her grandmother predicted when she was born. One of the most powerful witches in their family everyone said, her mother should be so proud. Only when Tamsin Greene turned eight, the age she should have come into her powers, nothing happened. Not the slightest inkling of Talent emerged.
Nine years later Tamsin is still dealing with the repercussions of her perceived failure as a witch. Her family loves her, but they treat her differently, an outcast among blood relatives. So when a mysterious NYU professor approaches her at her family's bookstore and mistakes her for her older and very Talented sister Rowena, Tamsin doesn't have strength to correct him, instead offering her help to assist him in finding an object he's lost.
Luckily for Tamsin, childhood friend Gabriel has recently moved back to town with his mother, and he just happens to have the Talent for locating lost objects. With his help, Tamsin locates what the professor so desperately seeks, but it's retrieval sets into motion an irreversible set of events with extreme circumstances for the entire Greene line, and reveals a long hidden truth about Tamsin herself.
Sweet and endearing with a touch of intensity and intrigue, Once a Witch is an engrossing tale of finding oneself and understanding that who we are supposed to be isn't nearly as important as the people we actually are. Predictions of the future only have credence based on the strength of the belief we put into them; they are not solid and unyielding, but rather viscous, ever-changing and altering with our every action. Laced with humor but counterbalanced with a dark edge of mystery, this tale is one where we ultimately lose track of the pages, finding questionably valid reasons for procrastinating on day to day matters so we can stay in thrall of the story unfolding before our eyes. This isn't a read that will necessarily haunt us with the magnitude of the events or the profundity of it's message, but it is certainly one that solicits our rapt attention, putting us fully under it's spell from page one and not releasing us from it's hold until we've reached the conclusion.
Tamsin is a girl of striking symmetry and balance; a dry wit accompanies a vibrant personality, an intellectual confidence is paired with an innate vulnerability at her lack of Talent, and a desire to prove her worth is paralleled by an admirable loyalty to those from whom she's so very different. No single trait overshadows the others to make her a more dramatic or outrageous teenage character, instead she is a blend of charming and relevant attributes that combine to form a well-rounded heroine onto whom we can so easily project ourselves. We share in her sense of being tainted and an utter failure to her family line, we smile gamely at her witty retorts and snappy one-liners, and we stand resolutely beside her as she attempts to wash away the perceived stain of normalcy and find a place in the hierarchy of witches.
In addition to a truly wonderful heroine, we also get a refreshing break from relationship drama and suffocating teen angst. The romantic element between Tamsin and Gabriel is extraordinarily subtle, one that provides just enough tension a dreamy exhalation still escapes our lips in anticipation of increased affectionate attention, but not so much as to be the very epicenter of the story around which all the other elements revolve. Our appetites are nicely whetted, our toes just breaching the bottomless pool of emotional connection as opposed to being swept away in an inescapable tide of hormones, pheromones, and endless pining. Tamsin and Gabriel are clearly destined for great things, each individually a force to be reckoned with on a variety of levels, and if this story is any indication, it will be an absolute pleasure to watch their strength and loyalty coalesce into something more spectacular than the sum of it's parts. With that in mind, however, an increase in the romance between them will be more than welcome in the sequel.
Once a Witch is an enthralling read, one that hasn't been given due credit up to this point, overshadowed instead by scores of other paranormal young adult books. Make no mistake however, this story is a pop of color amongst a sea of gray, a blissful single voice ringing out amidst a cacophony of sounds, and a steadying hand anchoring us where the teenage drama might otherwise pull us under.