- Season of the Witch by Mariah Fredericks
“Get ready for hell,” warns a text sent to Toni as she begins her junior year. She knows what it’s about: over the summer she hooked up with Oliver, who was (or maybe wasn’t) on a break from class queen Chloe, and now Chloe and her minions want revenge. They get it, too, with a psych-out and bullying campaign that culminates in a classic bathroom attack. Strange and chilly schoolmate Cassandra helps Toni with the situation by joining with her to cast a spell on Chloe; the spell’s horrific apparent result appalls Toni, and she begins to question and fear the darkness she sees in Cassandra. The witchy title and theme will certainly attract readers, but ultimately this is a story about belief, power, and their sources and effects (“It’s better to decide that you have powers that you can control than admit you got overwhelmed and freaked out and a horrible, horrible thing happened. Better evil power than no power at all”). The shifting power dynamic as Toni, initially bolstered by her doings with Cassandra, begins to intimidate Chloe is particularly well described, but so is Toni’s gradual deeper understanding of Chloe as somebody who is fragile and desperate as well as a bully. Fredericks gives Toni a vivid narrative voice and character, a girl who credibly enjoys male attention and shrugs at female jealousy; her heedless and bubbly best friend, Ella, is both a charming, vulnerable figure and an additional window into Toni’s personality. An unusual mix of enticing readability and thoughtfulness, this makes an interesting complement to Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (BCCB 3/13).