retro friday - so you want to be a wizard

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville that focuses on reviewing books from the past. These can be old favorites, under-the-radar treasures that deserve more attention, woefully out-of-print books, and so on. Everyone is welcome to participate!

When I go out in public with friends I try to avoid book displays (notice key word: TRY). If I’m by myself with time to burn, I can be completely happy in a bookstore for hours on end. But when I’m with friends I try to stay away from the books because I really can’t resist their lure. Take this Monday, for instance. I went to the Goodwill thrift store with my roommate. There were books. I… wandered away.

And promptly found the remains of a sci-fi and fantasy collection from someone who was a teenager in 2002. I know this because I recognized some of my favorites and found some new-to-me reads. One dollar per book – you know how that ended. One of the ‘new’ books I found was Diana Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard.

Something stopped Nita's hand as it ran along the bookshelf. She looked and found that one of the books had a loose thread at the top of its spine. It was one of those So You Want to Be a…books, a series on careers. So You Want to Be a Pilot, and a Scientist…a Writer. But this one said, So You Want to Be a Wizard. I don't believe this, Nina thought. She shut the book and stood there holding it in her hand, confused, amazed, suspicious—and delighted. If it was a joke, it was a great one. If it wasn't…?

Nita, short for Juanita, is a smart, friendless thirteen year old who is just trying to escape daily bullying. One day, though, she encounters a book that may be an elaborate prank, but may also be her key to escaping abuse. Using the book will introduce her to a world she never could have imagined, unexpected friends and a seemingly impossible task to save the city she loves, New York.

This book was first published in 1983. The year I was born. A long, long time ago. Naturally, there are technological (and cultural) references that are no longer relevant. In that respect, the book reads like classic sci-fi – something akin to Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I can compare it to L’Engle without guilt because it’s also high-quality fantasy with an engaging protagonist and an interesting magical universe. I can't say much more without giving away things that should be kept unspoiled - so I'll stop.

Please don’t be dissuaded by the dated references – So You Want to Be a Wizard is a charming middle grade fantasy with an epic adventure, a brave heroine, and loyal friends. It’s about a girl beating adversity and finding her calling – oh, and saving the world. First-class fun.

Recommended for: fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Madeline L’Engle, those who enjoy magic-in-our-own-world fantasies, and devotees of enduring vintage middle grade literature.


Kristen M. said...

Someone on Twitter actually just mentioned that she was really excited that her 8 year old grabbed this one off her shelves last week. I wanted to find out more about it so thanks! It's definitely one I will look for.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds adorable!

I'm the same way. The books draw me in.

Laina said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these books. I've read them multiple times and loved them each time. (Although they were a little advanced for me when I read them the first time, but I was a freak and reading stuff way early, lol.)

April (BooksandWine) said...

To be honest, I actually like books with dated references because of the whole nostalgia factor.

I kind of really, desperately want to read So You Want To Be A Wizard now. I just love retro, vintage fantasy reads. :-)

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This book looks so wonderful!

Ryan said...

I've not heard of this before, but anything with dated 1980s references has to be good. I'll have to look into finding it now.

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