Spells Trouble by: P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

The only rating this book gets from me is a warning to parents, older siblings, librarians: do not let children read this book. And by children I mean and under the age of seventeen. It may be rated 12-18 but it does not fit the kind of writing I would want a twelve year old to read. I have a fourteen year old young sibling and would not want them reading this. I already told them not to until they were much older, if it still interested them.

The Cast duo have a long history, I read part of the House of Night series as a child and I enjoyed it. I’m wondering if I read it again if I would feel the same.

This book has an interesting enough premise if you glance at it. Two teen witches that have to protect five trees that form a pentagram in their town. If they don’t things will go haywire.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Because the trees represent different religions and race. A tree for Norse mythology, a Hindu Banyan tree, a cherry blossom tree for Japan, Greek Olive tree, Egyptian Doum Palm.

What’s so important about these trees? Each guards the underworld related to that tree’s religion.

And all five are, for some reason, in Illinois, guarded by a family of White witches and now, by two twin white girls.

It makes no sense and is so painfully White Savior that I can’t believe no one around them said anything. That no one in the publishing house said anything. That’s just the start. The writing is awful. The characters are flat. And there are a few instances of homophobic language geared toward lesbians.

There is no trigger warning in this book.

Queer kids and readers get this enough in the real world. They should be able to make an informed decision about their reading choices and to have this sprung on them would be painful.

I’m an adult and was shocked.

When it comes to the writing, the disconnect is jarring. The prologue is well done, competent. And the rest of the book is awful. The prose is weak.

The characters, a set of twins named Hunter and Mercy, a best friend named Emily, a best friend named Jax and a boyfriend named Keith and the twins’ mother.

All of them are horribly written. The twins are impossible to tell apart. Each chapter is told in alternating points of view of the twins. They’re also written in third person point of view and there is so little to distinguish the twins in terms of voice that I actually didn’t realize the chapters were supposed to be that way.

The best friend is a caricature of what a teenage friend is. One minute she is hyped to a ten and the next she’s calm then the next she’s doing her best to “entice” a group of boys on a boat in an attempt at sexy posing on a lounge chair.

Jax is flat. He has no personality at all. He’s Hunter’s best friend. That’s his personality.

Keith? A misogynist and Mercy’s boyfriend. She keeps trying to make him a better person but it’s obvious from the beginning that he won’t be and he is a thorn in the sisters’ relationship.

On to the dialogue it is heinous. So much slang. And on that note, there are so many sentences of a white teenager saying “yass” in ways that no child speaks. I have a teenage sibling. I’ve listened to the conversations between my sibling and their friends. And they use slang.

No teenager talks the way the teens in this book do. It’s like they looked at Twitter and went “this is current” and called it a day.

That isn’t where it stopped.

Before I put quotes: YA needs to be a safe space for teens to learn about sex positivity. With most states having an absolute joke of Sex Ed, having sex in YA isn’t bad. However the conversations around sex in this book and the portrayed sex itself are not okay.

For one, an adult, a parent telling their child to use a condom and that their pleasure is as important as their partner’s is such an important message.

This is not the way to go about it.

After Mercy telling her mother (that both twins call by her first name for some reason) that Keith gave her his class ring, Abigail looks at it and says “Ooooh, what big fingers her has. Which reminds me. There are condoms in the pantry. BE sure some of them make that way into that suitcase you schlep around with you–and also make sure they make their way onto Kirk’s penis.”

This is not appropriate and it shouldn’t need to be explained as to why. This could have been such a good moment but nope. It’s also followed up by “Oh, and you’re welcome for your multiple orgasms. They’re familial, you know.”

No child wants to have this conversation this way with their parents. There still need to be boundaries.

Now, about the sex itself. These children are sixteen and this was written with so much detail that I skipped over it. It was disgusting. Written like erotica. And these are two teenagers.

No one thought to say anything. About any of this.

The magic system is weak, not very detailed and that was it. Like they got a base understanding of how to be a witch and went with it.

Now, the mother dies early in the story and we are told that the girls are distraught. One of them is shown but the other not so much. And Hunter does a spell with their friends to take Mercy’s grief away.

And that’s all the showing we get. We are constantly told that the girls are depressed, that nothing is the same, that they’re so upset and it’s never shown. It was boring.

Another character pops up after the death of the mother. Their cat, Xena, gets turned into a human. And she calls children Kitten. She’s also fairly useless and sort of guides them but spends more time sleeping, eating canned albacore tune and drinking cream than anything else.

Unless there’s a kid around then she calls them kitten. The first time it was a little funny, a little cute. I didn’t entirely hate it.

She says it 40 times in the book, I kept a tally.

Not only did it get old fast, that is too many times. Just eyerolling whenever it happened.

When it comes to the plot, it’s weak. And the resolution at the end is also weak. It just ends with the sisters’ relationship ruined, Hunter not trusting Mercy.

I only read this book because I was approved for the sequel on Netgalley without knowing it was a sequel. I do not look forward to reading it. I think the Casts got away with this because of that long history in publishing but this book is a shame. I could not stand it and would not give it to a young reader. There are better book with stronger writing, better sex positivity, no white saviorism, or any of the other issues plagueing this book.

I give this book no stars and simply the warning stated at the beginning.

Author:

Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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