Seriously Wicked: Not Just a Halloween Book
By Tina Connolly
Tor Teen (208 pages, $17.99 in hardcover, $9.99 digital, May 5, 2015)
Camilla Hendricks is a teenager who lives with her Aunt Sarmine. On the surface, Camilla appears to have an average life: she does chores, attends school, hangs out with her friends, and avoids her enemies. The reality, however, is anything but mundane: Aunt Sarmine is a witch. Camilla spends her days gathering spell ingredients, trying to decipher arcane spells written by paranoid witches, and mucking the dragon’s lair.
Camilla is a bit of a rebel, though; she’s vowed to be as normal as she can be and have a normal life with normal friends. Most importantly, she never, ever wants to be an evil witch like Sarmine. Unfortunately, that plan is thwarted when Sarmine summons a demon which then gets accidently implanted in Devon, the “boy-band-cute” new guy at school. Camilla has to help demonized-Devon find a phoenix that is timed to explode in the middle of their high school’s Halloween Dance. In order to do so, she has to embrace everything she’s tried hard to deny.
This book is a fun, easy read. While it ends up almost exactly where I thought it would (good guys win, bad guys lose, Camilla comes to terms with being a witch, Sarmine shows she has a heart and maybe isn’t actually evil at all), Connolly manages to incorporate a few fun twists along the way.
The pacing and prose are executed so that the story moves along without feeling rushed. The story is a bit predictable — I pretty much knew where each character would end up at the end — but even so, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Good character development is crucial to a great YA novel, and here Connolly succeeds. Everyone has strengths and flaws; this multi-faceted nature of the characters makes them feel like real people. Camilla is smart and just stubborn enough. She’s good in human school but resists learning the arcane spells that Sarmine insists she learns.
That is, until Camilla realizes that spells are nothing more than algebra word problems. Once she gains that knowledge, she is able to figure out all sorts of spells that come in handy, like demons-loosing spells, human pentagrams, and the ever-important recipe for self-defense.
Camilla’s best friend, Jenah, is an Asian-American who wears colored hair extensions to match her outfits and reads the aura of everyone around her. During the course of the story, we learn that Jenah is especially adept at reading the thoughts of dragons, which makes for a particularly poignant scene at the end of the book. Jenah’s relationship with Camilla is authentic; I’d like to read more stories with these two characters.
Perhaps the most interesting character is Devon. He’s a shy musician, but once he’s possessed by the demon, he becomes a lothario. Connolly is deft at balancing Devon’s split personality. He’s lovable as regular Devon and just roguish enough as demon-Devon. Devon never does anything irredeemable, which works in this case. I never believed the demon would actually overtake Devon, so particularly dastardly deeds wouldn’t have added anything to this story.
Seriously Wicked is a fun, quick read that both young and young-at-heart readers will enjoy at any time of year.
Kelly Swails last review for us was Brad Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings in Sharakhai