Disclaimer: This is a HarperCollins book.
The Ojja-Wojja by Magdalene Visaggio is an interesting book about representation and friendship. There is the usual bully vs. the “others” with a little supernatural (okay a lot of supernatural) added to the mix. There maybe is a bit too much cliched story arc for the adult reader but the at least 10 and up crowd will have fun. Though I have not watched it, this seems like a younger Stranger Things with a modern setting.
We follow two girls, Val, and Lanie. Best friends who get each other even if they do not get the rest of their small town. Or the world really. Val is autistic and finds ways to adjust to the craziness, but never fits in and is always feeling a bit left out. Yet, that is okay, as she is happy making up stories to help her escape and try and understand. And she knows that sometimes even if she does not understand why humans hug, she needs to do the “human thing” and offer one to Lanie. And Lanie knows that when she tells Val she is really a girl, that she is a safe, loving, accepting person to do so. Because if you can’t tell your best friend who you really are, who can you tell? Certainly not their town that allows the bullies to bully the “weirdos” and has a mysterious past where kids go missing and the crazy story of the Ojja-Wojja, a mysterious demon creature of the forest.
This book shows Lanie and Val as they start out doing a project for class and end up in another dimension. The girls do partake in some witchcraft, but everything is tastefully done. The point of the story is acceptance, learning to be yourself and in the end doing the right thing. And while the ending is closed, there is a hint to more stories to come.
Jenn St. Onge’s illustrations were not complete in my reader copy. However, they seem to fit the text and explore the visual clues that let you know, yes, that is a real ghost; yes, that is one crazy fantasy “sidebar” that Val has taken; and yes, that is what is going on.
I have a few dislikes to this book. At first, I was really into it, but the fact the girls do not seem to understand that “close enough” in a spell is not good at all. And there is a plot point that never is explained or expanded on was awkward.