The Girl and the Witch’s Garden

S. & S. May 2020. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534461581.
Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Piper Peavey lives with her father Atticus in Connecticut. As her father faces terminal cancer, Piper is dumped at the Mallory Estate, owned by her estranged mother Sophia and grandmother Melena. Steeped in magical rumors, Mallory Estate is also home to foster children Julius, Kenji, Teddy, and Camilla, who possess magical gifts. Under Sophia’s instruction, they work to locate the estate’s enchanted garden where the elixir of life is hidden. Desperate to save Atticus, Piper develops her own ability and reaches the garden first, teaming up with Teddy to solve three magical riddles. The children, Sophia, and Melena each are motivated by different goals, and Piper’s family secrets guide the final outcome. Bowman’s third-person limited perspective gives readers a close understanding of Piper’s emotions as she faces her mother’s desertion and her father’s prognosis. The writing is smooth, and Piper’s dialogue with the children and her mother purposefully advances the plot. As with any Faustean bargain, Piper’s desire to have the elixir at any cost creates an uncomfortable tension that electrifies the story. The world-building, however, has a tenuous quality. At times, Bowman has to inform readers how Piper figures something out or what the magical rules are. Her explanations seem more the writer’s construct than a tight-knit magical universe.
VERDICT An intriguing premise whose execution is acceptable though not outstanding, saved by Piper’s honest grief. Purchase where interest indicates.

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