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PJ Review: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Paranormal Element: Hoodoo
Series: The Magnolia League
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I was initially attracted to this book because of the cover and the fact that I’ve been in search of a southern gothic young adult book that works for me. I was instantly sucked into this one and was charmed at first with the originality and innocent character of Alex but as the novel went on I was taken to an almost uncomfortable place because didn’t like how things were turning out. It was a weird mix of innocence and sexuality, southern gothic and new age liberal thinking…and while I think if the character of Alex made a few different choices, I really would have liked it, instead I felt disappointed and a little upset with Alex's behavior. I did understand what the author was trying to convey, but unfortunately the delivery didn’t work for me. I really wanted to like Alex, which was all the more reason I hated what happened. It was as if a friend of mine betrayed me. It speaks volumes for the author’s writing ability, so take this review for what it is, my difference in opinion of the characters behavior.

Alex Lee: hippie chick, rainbow commune resident and recent orphan. Her mother died in a tragic accident and she has just now begun to settle into her skin again and find her place with her fellow hippies at the commune. Her world though, is turned upside down when a high-priced lawyer swoops in and brings her to her grandmother, now her legal guardian. Grandmother is a very wealthy woman in Savannah, Georgia and living with her is like living on a different planet, according to Alex. A world where people think she is a freak and they believe in things like Hoodoo and worship Dolce and drink sweet tea constantly. Her grandmother is a Magnolia and by blood, Alex is also. Magnolia’s are bred to be perfect. It might take a lot of work, but Alex’s grandmother is determined to make Alex into the perfect Magnolia even if it takes a few black spells.

I was really intrigued by this book at first. A hippie girl has to adapt to southern living…interesting. Unfortunately it all went wrong somewhere between the ladies chugging back the sweet tea and the magic that makes you instantly skinny and pretty. I really liked the character of Alex at first, but she devolved into a terrible waste of a girl by the end of the story. I don’t like my characters to back pedal – but if they do at least they have some epiphany at some point that directs them in a better direction. Or at least it is the devolution of a character, make it not so glamorous...Alex went from this cool hippie chick with dreds and not an awful thought in her head to this anorexic, materialistic, jealous and caustic flake. And I think it was supposed to be progression. To top it off, it was also one of those novels that pushed that a girl needs a man to get her through life. Alex wasn’t happy unless she was hooking up with a guy. Then dismissing Alex’s awful transformation, the author portrayed the South in the typical fashion – stuck up, racist people, sipping sweet tea, practicing antiquated witchcraft and having big extravagant parties in crumbling mansions. I just have to say – I’m from the South and I’ve never drank an ounce of Sweet Tea. I’ve also never gone to a debutante ball or practiced Voodoo, Hoodoo or anything with an OOOO.

I’m just rather tired of some of these Young Adult novels that push: Get skinny, get clear skin and you’ll get a boyfriend and boyfriends = happiness.

I would have been much more impressed if Alex would have kept the dreds, starting importing pot from her commune in California. Used the money she made from that enterprise to take down the vicious group of debutantes and then open a head shop on the beach, selling charms and other new agey paraphernalia to put herself through art school.

Recommended for young adult paranormal fans. This would be a good transition from contemporary to paranormal. There are some heavier subjects, such as sex and drugs so it is recommended for a more mature teen audience.


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    Shelagh said...

    Fair review Rachel - I always appreciate the honesty in your reviews. It does sound like the author took Alex along a path that wouldn't gel with me either. I enjoy my characters to be a little off the grid and different in some way. Yes, we all want to be accepted, but sometimes we have to realise that we're happier the way we are - being WHO we are.

    The Word Fiend

    Anonymous said...

    I love your review. It so fair and still I want to read this book.

    Laura said...

    This is the first review I have read from you and I appreciate that you are completly honest. I don't think I am going to check this book out. I don't like books that make you think you need to be perfect "in the worlds view" to have a place in this world. I love the aspect that we are all different and unique. I love your spin off of the book. I would read that one :) Thanks for your honesty. I do love the cover though.
    Great review and I am a new follower.

    Tee said...

    I would have been much more impressed if Alex would have kept the dreds, starting importing pot from her commune in California. Used the money she made from that enterprise to take down the vicious group of debutantes and then open a head shop on the beach, selling charms and other new agey paraphernalia to put herself through art school.....................LOL I loved this!!! I am reading this book in the next few months on my blog. Like you I was thinking a good Soutern Gothic book ( the south can be so Gothic with the right writer) Im a bit disappointed to hear you didnt like it. I will go forth anyway, with a glass of sweet tea in my hand!!

    ParaJunkee said...

    @Shelagh - I've never been a fan of the fake population. I don't need a Prada purse or perfect hair to make me happy. I think people need to work more on being content then chasing the current status quo. Just MHO. Make improvements....just don't believe being skinny or having clear skin will solve all your problems. Which I do think the book did show this. No matter how attractive Alex became she did continue to screw things up.

    @Nevey - Any book that gets you thinking did it's job in my estimation. This book incited an emotional reaction with me. It did it's job. I hope you enjoy it!

    @Laura - Hey Laura! Welcome to the PJV. Thanks for following. It would have been cool if this was a choose your own adventure LOL My Alex would definitely be on the beach ;)

    ParaJunkee said...

    @Tee - Go forth and drink! LOL Hopefully you will enjoy more than me.

    Beth D. said...

    Most likely won't pick this up. I am from the south as well--Georgia actually, so I get very peeved at the stereotypes.

    Most women that have crumbling mansions, and sit on their porches sipping sweet tea are NOT anorexic looking! j/k.

    Mari - Escape In A Book said...

    I loved reading your honest thoughts(which made me laugh a few times), Rachel. I don't think Magnolia League is for me, the back pedaling doesn't appeal to me.

    Mari - Escape In A Book said...

    I noticed that you've swapped over to Blogger's own commenting platform. How did that work out for you? I've swapped a couple of times and ended up losing all the old comments on my blog, there was no option to import the comments then.

    Danny said...

    Hm hm I was just about to buy the audiobook but now I'm nor sure anymore. It does sound nice, but ... there are books out there that are more than nice and wait to be read. Thanks, I really needed an idea if I should get it or not!

    Sara said...

    I completely agree with that quote. I thought the message was totally horrible.

    Lily Child said...

    You make some valid points here. The need to be skinny and pretty was overkill. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this novel. Not being from the south, I might not have been as in tune to the southern stereotypes. I really enjoyed the voodoo aspect as well.

    ParaJunkee said...

    @Beth - Hand up!! New Orleans here. I hear ya...the crumbling mansions - are not owned by anyone interesting. Usually they've been converted into apartments.

    @Mari - I lost all my comments for a month! It was tragic. But ID kept on messing up and always in posts that had a lot of comments ( i.e. contests) which really pissed me off. I'm not ready to do that again. I'll deal with Blogger comments.

    @Danny - There are a lot of books out much better.

    @Sara - Thanks. It was just a bit mixed up.

    @Lily - It wasn't even Voodoo, it was Hoodoo, which I'm not as familiar with. I just didn't like how she kept on doing everything to attract guys. Like the dreds she was all about keeping them and then you find out she only got them because of the hippie guy. Oh well, I guess that rubbed me wrong. Different strokes, right? ;)

    Lani Wendt Young said...

    I enjoyed reading the review - witty and incisive. Probably wont get to the book. Although, some days a little bit of that skinny spell would be really nice to have...big sigh.(as I eat some more choc chip cookies and debate whether or not I will make it to the gym today.)

    Jinny ( said...

    Hmm I'm always cautious around teen books that deal with girls who end up feeling like they're nothing without their boyfriend/crush/man.

    "Alex went from this cool hippie chick with dreds and not an awful thought in her head to this anorexic, materialistic, jealous and caustic flake."

    This part also worries me. I feel this is a book I won't get along with too well ... heh. Thank you for the informative review though, I really enjoyed reading it! Well, I enjoy all your reviews :P I'll give this book a try if my curiosity gets the best of me.

    Ninja Girl said...

    Everything--and I mean, everything--you pointed out in your review is what I think is wrong with so many YA books today. I'm glad for the honesty here. I admit I'm a sucker for a good cover, but it's good to know how this one goes. I like my heroines strong and indepedent, usually with a large dose of bad assery on the side. Doesn't sound like this girl Alex has it :/

    Thanks again for the honest review,

    Ninja Girl

    Lily Child said...

    Excellent point. It's been a while since I read this, so the details are little fuzzy. Now that I think of it, a lot was hinged on guys and boyfriends.

    ParaJunkee said...

    @Lani - Yes, I would probably fall victim to the skinny spell. It was rather ingenious, they were able to switch metabolisms with a hummingbird so they ate a lot and stayed super skinny. Almost like bulimia without the throwing up.

    @Jinny - Thanks so much Jinny. If I would have read a review like this I wouldn't have read it. I never got along with girls like this in high school. And unfortunately their were a lot of them.

    @Ninja - I love those types of heroines also! And even when they are a little weak willed I like when they gain a bit of backbone. I thought this one was going to be really good. Oh well.

    @Lily - Yes it was and for entertainment purposes this book was well-written and the characters were real. I will read whatever the author puts out next, though I'm not sure about sticking to the series.

    Anonymous said...

    This is the first book review I've read on Parajunkee. I must say that if you're this candid in all of your reviews, I have no other choice than to subscribe to Parajunkee! I appreciate the honesty and look forward to reading more.

    Jacquline Carrera

    Beth said...

    I didn't like this one partially for the reasons you mentioned, but more so because I felt the plot was just all over the place. Nothing got answered by with the ending and I wasn't even sure what the main plot was.

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