Bingo Square: Youths!
I was intrigued by MrsLangdonAlger’s review of this, but despite her warning of how it was hard to describe and defied expectations, the novel description on Amazon made me expect a certain narrative flow, and as a result, something about the ending didn’t quite work for me.
It starts off so great! Magpie or Mags or Margaret, depending on who she is interacting with, is a sophomore in high school and close to failing. Her family life has collapsed in the last six months, ever since she caught her dad cheating, leading to him leaving and her mother falling into a six month long drunken haze. Her older sister Eryn has changed her number, remembering the last time their alcoholic mother fell off the wagon and wanting nothing to do with it. It’s bad enough that Magpie hates being at home but she can’t focus on her school work, and she has been ostracized by her former best friend, the popular Allison. Now on Allison’s bad side, Magpie sits at the reject table with other students that have made one unforgivable mistake and been driven outside the accepted social circles of high school.
Magpie has been using her notebook to retreat, and write a world she calls Near where everything is as she wishes it could be. The book description uses the line “an intoxicating, twisted tale of magic, menace, and the monsters that live inside us all” so I was expecting a very different plot build up. In the first half of the novel, Magpie seems to finally start opening up to her new friends, and even making some progress in getting back involved in her academics. However, around the same time, she discovers a magical portal to Near – she has dreamed it into being. I think it would have worked for me better if there had been more of a progression, Magpie slowly being seduced by the other, magical world but the pacing was off for me. Magpie doesn’t move from small acts of revenge to larger ones, going straight for large actions against victims that aren’t even the true subject of her wrath, and doesn’t even find Near until she has already started making new friends so after a very promising beginning, I found myself frustrated with the trajectory of the last half of the novel. The rules are unclear, and I found the character progression rather unfulfilling. However, I have to commend Leno for taking an untraditional approach and not being afraid to have somewhat unlikable characters, even if it didn’t work for me.
Bingo Square: Youths!