Hmmm… how to summarize this one, with out giving too much away in the review. Alex’s mom dies and Alex finds herself stuck in Savannah Georgia among a bunch of girls and ladies attached to the Magnolia League. She doesn’t know it at first, but the League is all about black magic and hoodoo. Alex is supposed to take over for her Grandmother, and Mrs. Lee wants to groom her for that role and a “coming out” party at Christmas. Enter Hayes and Madison, the other two future ML leaders. They are snobs, and the popular girls. They make fun, haze, spend lots of money, and basically think they are the next coming. And the town treats them as if they are. But what is really going on, and what is the ML really about? What is locked in the room at the end of the hall that Mrs. Lee wants Alex to stay out of?
I was often reminded of the Caster Chronicles while reading this. We know that there are bigger and more sinister things going on then we have all the information about. There were some wonderful lines early on that gave me great hopes for the book. As the chapters went by, though, I was a little disappointed. I liked the book well enough. I thought it was a good solid start to a series. And we have some of the rules as to how the magic works in the world of the Magnolia League.
But there were inconsistencies and character development flaws that I wish hadn’t been. For example, we see Alex go from RC girl, into t-shirt and jeans, resisting consumerism and her Grandmother to MG. Without much of a struggle. She superficially notes that the MGs are snobby skinny girls who aren’t very nice to always hanging out with them and not really caring. She seems at first to have the spirit of someone who wouldn’t cave to her grandmother, yet she does right away, dressing and hanging out with those Mrs. Lee wants. And then, to have her at the end do a 180 and decide to destroy the League – well, I didn’t get the foundation I need as a reader to believe that course of Alex’s. Any of it. Not the acceptance of the girls in the first place, not the relationship with Thad, and not the desire to end the league. None of it. In fact, one of the chapters gives us “the next month went by so fast…” (or something like it) and that month could have added so much to the book. We see Thad and Alex not getting along and then suddenly they are a couple. There are also some plot holes around Alex’s winter dress and staying out of the room and her mother’s “second burial”… lost me a little with those things.
Then of course there’s the author’s fascination with former presidents and their names…. Hayes, Alexander, Madison. I know it’s the south, but jeeeesh. And the fact that in the beginning we get a few words written with the southern accent, but only a few and then the practice doesn’t resurface. We only get a tiny bit (except for the constant reminder about the heat) of reminders after that that we are in the south… again, just some inconsistencies and places were more depth would have been appreciated. Maybe the editor was just too heavy handed with the red pen. Since I would expect the author to have given me more, not less of this.
Alex’s initiation – with the crush a crush ceremony was a little out of the blue too. I think this book lacked depth in plot and characters. From a plot perspective, the need to have to put an end to the agreement with the Buzzards came out of the blue. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to the story and while there were subtle hints that something was going on with Alex’s mom’s room, that too was really out of nowhere. With the characters, they aren’t very well developed and they felt fairly one-dimensional. With Madison and Haley, maybe not so much since I think they are supposed to be fairly superficial, but it was hard to route for Thad and Alex since we saw so little of them together.
I think we need to see more of the magic – not just the results (forever young and always rich). I think we need to see more of Savannah – the history of that city could have made the city itself a character and yet the author didn’t really draw from that resource. And I think we need more of the characters. They were a good start, the magic and the use of it was a good start, and the ending of the book really came across as a good start. Hopefully we get more then just snippets, like we really have here, of things in the next book.