“Tardy Bells and Witches’ Spells” by Sarina Dorie

Tardy Bells and Witches’ Spells: Womby’s School for Wayward Witches #1

Tardy Bells

Sarina Dorie

Clarissa Lawrence is your typical nerdy teenager who loves magic in all its forms. But her mother has decided that it’s dangerous for her to believe in it and confiscates all her Harry Potter books, her Lord of the Rings books, and anything else that might encourage Clarissa to believe that magic is real.

But it is.

“Tardy Bells and Witches’ Spells” borrows very self-consciously from Harry Potter, with, for example, Clarissa convinced that she’s going to get her Hogwarts’ Letter–only she doesn’t. Petite and childish even for her age (elfin, one might say), she loves everything magic-related and wants to believe that magic is real, but she’s also afraid after some unpleasant incidents that she’ll accidentally hurt those around her if she does practice it. Plus she’s got the usual problems of your average nerdy high school freshman.

Clarissa is a very relatable character if you’ve ever waited for your Hogwarts’ Letter or tried to go through a wardrobe into Narnia, and both nerdy, dreamy teenagers and adults who were once nerdy, dreamy teenagers are likely to sympathize with her problems. The question of her magical abilities goes unanswered through most of the book, which is page-turningly suspenseful, as Clarissa tries to convince herself that magic is real, that it isn’t, that her sister loves her, that her sister is a wicked witch, that SHE is secretly a wicked witch, and so on, as well as navigating her feelings for her best friend Derrick.

Recommended for Harry Potter and younger Twilight fans, or adults who enjoy early adolescent YA fantasy. The book ends with the resolution of one plotline and the beginning of a second, so it’s a bit of a cliffhanger ending to set up the next book in the series. I personally enjoy that (and I’ve read a later book in the series already, although I recommend starting with this one), but if you absolutely must have your book wrapped up neatly, you should probably avoid this and all other fantasy series.

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