Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley (4 out of 5)
I borrowed an ARC of this to read from the children’s frontlist buyer, who got it from our Harper rep Jenny. I’m a sucker for a great cover, and this one has it. It’s billed on the ARC as a mix of Fault In Our Stars and Stardust. I’m not sure I saw much of either element or literary comparison. I was not a fan of Fault In Our Stars, so I quickly eschewed that. This book hasn’t lost hope, it still pretty much has it until the last page. I really like hope- not only in reality, but also as a literary device. Honestly, I’m still too fresh off of reading this to liken it to anything else I’ve read. Maybe in a month or two it’ll hit me what it reminds me of. I will say that I really enjoyed it.
Aza Ray Boyle is pretty much up a creek without a paddle since birth, suffering with a mysterious lung disease that renders it hard for her to breathe. She sees and tells her family of a ship that she witnesses in the sky, and that she heard someone calling her name from the ship. Of course, the doubtful family puts it down to hallucinations brought on by her medical illness. Jason, her best buddy, believes her. There’s a lot of romantic brouhaha going on here with these two, but it goes nowhere. But Aza goes somewhere- to another world- MAGONIA. In Magonia, Aza can be all that she can’t be on Earth- she can breathe, she can explore, she can do anything! She is invincible! However, as in all things that are often too good to be true, there is a catch somewhere in this nicely wrapped present that she’s been gifted with. Earth and Magonia- two mega worlds, each with its own positives and negatives, each battling for world dominance. Yes, there’s your catch. The two mega-worlds are bracing for a war over which planet survives and which is gone. Aza is genuinely torn- everything she dreams of is on Magonia, everything she loves, knows, and cares about is on Earth. Which will she choose? What will happen?
Now, I loved this book. The only thing I didn’t love is the teenage posturing between Aza and Jason. I think it’s because I’m one of those people who wouldn’t let a budding romance get in the way of a surefire opportunity. In this case, this poor girl is miserably ill trying to make the best of a bad situation, with only the love of her family and her best friend Jason to keep her from completely losing faith. Here is this great new gig in another world where she’s free of her ailment, sees a whole new existence is possible, and she’s digging it. BUT- Jason’s on Earth. Everyone she loves is there. Jason, Jason, Jason. I think if I were in her position, I would say damn the torpedoes and go for wherever I am going to be happiest. In this case, her health and newfound way of life. If it imbues you with life, grab it. Jason and Aza’s potential romance is something that drove me nuts. I felt so deeply for this girl, this character. Jason’s a nice enough character, I just felt that Aza shouldn’t think twice. I understand that she doesn’t want Earth to be blown up, along with her loved ones. Now what if her loved ones joined her on Magonia? Could they? Aha!, dear reader, THIS is something you must read the book to find out. I thought, if Jason loves her a fraction of what she feels for him, he would want her to be free of the suffocating life she’s usually leading on Earth. Unless the love devil has sunk its pitchfork in him so deeply he ceases to care? No spoilers here, folks, you’re simply going to have to get out of your Barcalounger and go buy this book and read it when it’s released. I thought it was great, would have been better without the ever hanging thread of bliss known as “love”. I think I like my young adult sci-fi types to be more sci-fi, less poofy kissyface emoticons, emojis, and the like. Aza, girl, do what’s best for you..is the mantra going through my head. I would tell anyone who had the same situation going in my life- if you have a situation where you are not happy and life in that location is holding you back and making you sad, and there’s a chance to leave, start fresh, meet new people, etc. there should be no question of cutting the ties and going. (Hint, Hint, Friends of Mine). Even if there are people who love you that are left behind so you can live your life. Because, if they love you, they want the best for you and for you to be happy. Keep that in mind reading Magonia.
So, really, it’s a fantastic book. I SO love Aza as a character, I cannot tell you how much (or maybe I already have). I had hoped it was more sci-fi, less romance, and that was the only thing that took something away from it for me. That is the only thing. It’s a fantastic premise, fantastically told, and you would and should do yourself a favor and pick it up when it’s released. MAGONIA is out on Harper Collins on April 28, 2015.