The Fascinators

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. May 2020. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062888044.
Gr 7 Up–High schooler Sam and his close friends, James and Delia, are the Fascinators—magickers capable of summoning storms, reading minds, and performing spells. Despite the rest of their community not fully accepting their magical abilities, the trio take their gifts seriously, meeting after school to hone their skills. As an out, queer teen living in rural Georgia, Sam struggles with his identity and self-esteem in a landscape of judgmental side glances and unending microaggressions—especially when it comes to James. He can no longer deny that his feelings for James have grown beyond friendship, even if Sam knows James may not be on the same page. When the Fascinators take on a new member, Denver from Nashville, his openness and kind demeanor quietly begin to strengthen Sam’s confidence. But the group grapples with their collective strength when James gets into trouble experimenting with dark magic at a party. Strategizing to use their magical powers, they rally to find a book of spells that James stole from a powerful cult group called True Light who are hell-bent on reclaiming their property. As Sam and his friends confront True Light, the group’s loyalties are questioned. Sam is forced to reflect on his own willingness to sacrifice everything for his friends, and how much of himself he is prepared to lose in the process. Sam’s inner dialogue is relatable and dynamic.
VERDICT Part paranormal thriller, part introspective character study, this title challenges readers to accept themselves, build empathy, and stand strong in the power of personal beliefs. An #OwnVoices title for fans of Becky Albertalli.

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