I have an ulterior motive for reviewing How to Ditch Your Fairy: writing a review gives me a good excuse to post the book’s amazing paperback cover. Go ahead and take a minute – get a real good look at that sucker. Take that, Tinkerbell! Now, we all know what they say about books and covers. But we’re going to ignore that for the moment – I’m giving you permission to judge this one. Because this book is very funny, a little bit subversive, and just sweet enough for some bright purple cursive script.
If you live in New Avalon and you’re unexpectedly good at something, you’ve probably got a fairy. It could be something amazing, like Rochelle’s clothes-shopping fairy. It could be something mostly useless, like a loose-change-finding fairy. Or it could be something that gets you unceremoniously stuffed into the back of a massive hockey player’s car every afternoon, like Charlie’s parking fairy. Charlie doesn’t have a car. Charlie doesn’t even LIKE cars, and she sure is sick of the smell of gasoline that seems to follow her around. When Charlie finds out that her arch-enemy Fiorenze is trying to get rid of her all-boys-like-you fairy, they hatch a plan to make a switch.
New Avalon is just different enough to make things interesting in Larbalestier’s world – and Steffi, the love interest, is conveniently new to town. His presence both provides a way to add some exposition about the many quirks of New Avalon, and also gives a voice to the readers’ questions and frustrations about the local customs. Steffi makes a great voice of reason when everyone around him goes on about the Ours – New Avalon’s local celebrities – or when the rules and restrictions at Charlie’s school seem way over the top. He’s also helpful for translating the slang, which I found sometimes clever and sometimes just distracting.
Charlie attends the local sports high school, where calorie counts are mandatory for all students, discipline is tight, and getting too many demerits means missing game time. And Charlie absolutely thrives on all of this. It was one thing that made her feel very different from characters in many YA novels, where creativity and a quirkiness are the traits that are glorified much of the time. Some people prefer having rules to follow and high standards to strive for – and it’s nice to see one of those people show up in a book every once in a while.
The novel initially raised a lot of wonderful questions about the fairies. For one thing, not everyone in New Avalon believes that they exist, and no one really knows what they are, where they come from, or why some people have them. There seems to be some religious aspect to the fairies – people who don’t believe in them are not likely to have one, and are sometimes called “agnostics.” Fiorenze’s mother is a fairy expert, and Charlie and Fiorenze are guided by her extensive research. But Tamsin’s research is not just practical – it is ethical as well. She brings up some questions about the possible consequences of switching fairies. I was intrigued by a lot of these questions, and I wish they had been explored a little bit more – they mostly fall by the wayside as the story’s action takes off.
In the end, this was a good light read that I thought had the potential to be something more. But don’t let that take away from the fun of the story. It’s well worth reading for the luge scene alone!
Justine Larbalestier on the web.
Justine Larbalestier’s wonderful blog.