Alchemy by Margaret Mahy

I wanted to relaxing weekend so I went for a couple of old favorites (authors I mean).

Margaret Mahy

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy: I really like Mahy's novels – they are about teenagers and strange things happen to them – sort of young adult contemportary fantasy. The Changeover was one of my favorite books in high school because Sorry Carlise, the male witch in the book, was very weird. I felt this was a much more accurate representation of teenage boys than many other YA books in my day.

Anyway, in Alchemy, seventeen year old Roland isn't obviously odd like Sorry. He's a popular young man – prefect at Ault Academy, dating the prettiest girl in school, smart, good-looking and has a good relationship with most of his teachers. But underneath it all, Roland has felt that something inside him is warning him to be "careful", that he has to keep up his wholesome, normal image. His father left when he was 10 and Roland feels he must be a good, strong person that his mother can rely on.Things begin to change for him when one day one of Roland's teachers somehow catches Roland shoplifting some minor items (very unlike his normal behavior), and coerces Roland to make friends with and to keep an eye out for Jess Ferret. Until now Roland never paid any attention to Jess. She's a quiet, unnoticable girl in Roland's classes, but when Roland watches her, he realises she works to keep people ignoring her. Jess is hiding something and Roland wants to know what it is. So he stalks her. Meanwhile Roland has a reoccuring dream about a carnival and a magician that terrifies him. Suddenly Roland starts to catch glimpses of this magician around town and what his has to do with Roland and Jess is another thing he has to find out.

While this is a young adult novel, the writing and plotline have complexity in plot and character that you don't always see in young adult novels. Plus, I really love the way Mahy writes – especially her descriptions of things that are wonderous: "Suddenly, he is suspended in a space that falls away beneath him and yet somehow embraces him too. Roland blinks. Those distant grains of light are really suns. He blinks again, and silence shivers through him. It is all around him, yet he feels it deep inside his head like a song he has not yet sung aloud." Mahy is compared to Diana Wynne Jones and I agree there are similarities, but Mahy's books may have a little bit more of this complexity to life element to it than Jones. I also noticed for the very first time – her writing is really British (or is it New Zealand-ish since that's where she lives?). I also like how well she fleshes out Roland and Jess – they are unique characters, and I liked how relationships between characters, especially family relationships were written (Roland and his mother, Roland and his brothers, Mr. Hudson and his sibling). Yet another interesting relationship – Roland and his girlfriend Chris – I pondered over this one a bit.

9.5 out of 10 (extra points because I feel nostalgic)

This wasn't a re-read but my other book this weekend (Stardust by Neil Gaiman) was. I'll talk about it later. Going to bed.

Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July week.

TBR  @ 98

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