Expected Publication Date: May 8, 2012
In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an "Ord"—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society. The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!
There are so many reasons why Rubino-Bradway's Ordinary Magic is now one of my favorite middle grade books to recommend. Rubino-Bradway created a world that, while built entirely upon magical inventions and a thriving absolute monarchy, is still recognizable as a contemporary society. I really enjoyed having the world slowly revealed to me--always feeling familiar, but with interesting magical quirks. Rubino-Bradway turned the typical plot of a middle grade fantasy on its head: here is a world full of magic, and, rather than being exceptionally gifted or special, our heroine turns out to be completely ordinary. She then goes on to show that one can be completely "ordinary" and still be smart, brave and strong; that you don't have to have "special" gifts to be the heroine of your story!
Rubino-Bradway's characters are all interesting in their own ways. I think it is sometimes hard to write a large family--not to mention a full cast of characters in a boarding school--and have each member maintain believable and distinct personalities, by she does it with aplomb. Abby's family was just wonderful. I love that they are supportive, loving, and present. I am so tired of absent parent syndrome! I also appreciated the way Rubino-Bradway handled the parents for each of the ordinary children a little differently. Naturally, not everyone would be supportive if they discovered their child was a social pariah--but there are varying degrees of how supportive or un-supportive they could be. I like that (though some parents did completely abandon their children) some parents still tried to support their children financially, or made sure a kindly neighbor took them in. I also liked how, though some parents were equally supportive on a personal level, Rubino-Bradway shows that the family's power and relative position in society can vastly change how helpful that support can be. It was a very frank look at bigotry for a middle grade novel!
Rubino-Bradway also handled the friendships between the ordinary children beautifully. The varying degrees of intimacy based on both personality and interactions felt very authentic. (And, can I just say, I am getting a very Anne-Gilbert vibe from Abby and Peter?) Most importantly, though, Ordinary Magic was a fun, engaging read. Rubino-Bradway writes with such charm that I was not only caught up in the story immediately, but felt at-home, and was sad to have it end. It was scary and exciting and funny. This is a book that I will own, and I can't wait for her next.
Jeremy's just protective. I mean, they all are--that happens when you're the baby of the family by a lot. Jeremy was the baby for five years before I came along, and I think he was getting a little sick of it. So when I showed up, he latched on to the big-brother role with a vengeance.
4 of 5 stars
Review is also on Goodreads, a review copy was provided by the publisher.