Abe, Julie. The Charmed List. Wednesday Books, 2022. 304 pp. ISBN 978-1250830098. $18.99
This magical realism young adult friends-to enemies-to-lovers romance is utterly, well, charming. Author Abe imagines a reality where some small percentage of the population is able to pull raw magic from a source to imbibe food or potions or salves for a little something extra: a boost of confidence with your tea or quicker healing for a rash. Those with magic tend to band together in small communities and those without are oblivious but benefit.
Artist Elie is looking forward to a road trip with her non-magical bestie Lia. the magical convention she and her family will be exhibiting at is near Lia’s relatives and Elie will have a chance to accomplish the goals on her new Anti-Wallflower list. But a prank gone wrong exposes Lia to magic and one of the consequences is Elie now has to make her road-trip with her former bestie, Jack, who has become her worst enemy in the years since he lost his mother and starting licking on her.
Worst of all, Jack has seen the List, has a near-photographic memory and recall, and now has something to hold over Elie. Instead, he seems intent on helping her check off items. Something (magical?) happens on the trip down the California coast: sparks of the friendship they once had and maybe something more?
Abe writes with empathy and honesty about family and friendship, trust and betrayal, trust and vulnerability. The world she imagines and builds feels wholly believable. The beauty of California comes through and Asian-American readers may see themselves in this story.
Supporting characters, like Jack and Elie’s younger siblings (who are best friends like they used to be), and potential customers along the road, have depth and are finely drawn in few words. Even with the tropes of Forced Proximity and Just One Bed, the story is fairly chaste.
While the shift from dislike to attraction seemed pretty fast given how mean Jack was to Elie, and she may have been too quick to forgive, readers who can suspend their disbelief for magic all around us can let that go, too. The Charmed List is a sweet story and a quick read.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #TheCharmedList from #NetGalley.