Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books/PYR for a copy of How to Succeed in Witchcraft in exchange for an honest review.

Content warnings are up top this time, as How to Succeed in Witchcraft deals with issues of grooming in the education system. 

Summary

Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. As a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s determined to win the Brockton Scholarship — her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her competition? Ana freaking Álvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.

When Mr. B asks Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive musical, she warily agrees, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But in rehearsals, Shay realizes Ana is . . . not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could be a friend—or more.

And Shay could use someone in her corner once she becomes the target of Mr. B’s unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when her future’s on the line? — From the publisher. 

Uncomfortable Truths

Aislinn Brophy’s How to Succeed in Witchcraft is visceral in a hard-to-read way, but that’s a good thing. This book is not subtle. A book about how awfully society treats kids, especially marginalized ones, shouldn’t be. This novel blends metaphor and real life. Shay and her friends live in an alternate reality version of the US, but it’s not that different from our society. Sure they have magic, but if anything, that’s just highlighted IRL injustices. 

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As an educator and former theatre kid, How to Succeed in Witchcraft made my blood boil. My best friend’s mom was my drama teacher and is essentially my second mom. She is so beloved that her students call her “Mama.” Like Mr. B, she often drove BIPOC kids who lived 30 minutes outside the district home after play rehearsal so they could participate without waiting for buses that might not come.

Unlike Mr. B, my theatre-mom teacher is not abusive. But because of that relationship and my subsequent work as an educator, I understand how easy it is for criminals like Mr. B to exist and find their victims. The amount of trust that students and parents place in educators is enormous. Sure, we’re fingerprinted and get a background check, but … dangerous monsters still pass the tests.

While I don’t want to perpetuate a culture where we don’t trust one another, we need to create a one aware of warning signs and how to stop abuse before it happens. 

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OK, but how’s the book?

I’ve been throwing out a lot of comments about the merits of How to Succeed in Witchcraft‘s ideas. But rest assured. It’s a good read as well. Shay is a great character. I loved watching her grow: as a human, witch, a daughter, a friend — everything. I particularly enjoyed her friendship with Lex, as Brophy avoided many typical YA friendship-drama pitfalls. The romance in the book was light and breezy, an excellent balance to the book’s darker material. 

Shay’s relationship with her parents is well-drawn as well; they want so much from her that she’s nervous about going to them when things are tough. Similarly, the socio-economic realities of Shay’s and Ana’s lives were ever-present, and it’s a nice, authentic touch. Their queerness feels less central to their identity, which is a critical and valid perspective to read. 

Book Review: How to Succeed in Witchcraft Author Aislin Brophy

Author Aislinn Brophy. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios

Should you read it?

Yup. Aislinn Brophy’s How to Succeed in Witchcraft should be required reading for all kids and parents. It could probably save lives. Knowing how the signs and knowing it’s not your fault are of the utmost importance. Besides that, Brophy’s book is good. It’s entertaining. It’s not surprising to find out that Brophy themself is an actor. She’s captured that world really well. I can’t wait to read what they come up with next! 

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How to Succeed in Witchcraft is out on September 27, 2022. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚🧪🔮

 

If you are experiencing abuse but cannot talk to an adult about it, please reach out to one of these crisis hotlines:

 

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