Mary Poppins except she doesn’t leave at the end.
Plot: Mika Moon is a witch. Like all other witches, she was orphaned young and has lived a fairly isolated life since they have to keep their magic a secret. Her one outlet is a youtube channel where she pretends to do magic, just to share in the love of it with others. Someone’s noticed that she’s the real deal though, and they want her as their own Mary Poppins, since the kids are doing things like setting their treehouse on fire. They too, as witches, are orphaned, and are being raised by a old couple and one conveniently hot man around Mika’s age. He thinks her presence will attract the wrong attention to their little family, and he’s not wrong. Shenanigans ensue.
I wanted to like this book so much, but I did not. The problem is two-fold. The first two thirds of the book are painfully twee. Just completely and utterly wholesome and at least for me, quite boring. There’s some mysterious owner of the house and an impending visit by a lawyer they want to go well, but these are flies buzzing around well above their heads. The meat here is family dinners, visits to bookshops, heart to hearts, well intentioned scheming by old people to matchmake the young people, etc. If the book continued in this vein, I would simply have reviewed it as a cozy romance and left it at that.
Which leads us to the second problem I had with this book – the 180 pivot of the last act. In the set up of the story, we get a hint that the family is hiding a Secret, as one does in these types of stories, but our characters must bond before such secrets come to light, and bond they do. Mika is living in a home for the first time in her life. One filled with laughter and joy and shared meals. She shares with these lovely people the scars she carries from previous attempts at forming attachments. Then the Secret is revealed and it is DARK. Highlight the below if you want the very, very spoilery version of this, but in short, I felt the story completely fell apart in the resolution. The depth of the secret, how Mika was manipulated because of it, and the absolutely ham-fisted attempt to resolve it took this book down from a “fine, just not for me” to a “this is toxic and I can’t recommend it.”
The Secret is that Lilian is not only dead, but died in front of the family. Of natural causes! They TOTALLY didn’t murder her! They did bury the body such that it would be impossible to prove or disprove their innocence, but you gotta trust them on this! Why would they lie about it? They only wanted to keep the will from being heard so they could maintain their lifestyle. So the reason they wanted to hire a real witch was less to teach the girls to control their magic and more to trick her into loving them enough to cast some kind of magic to make the lawyer think she was Lilian. So for those keeping count, what they did was (1) hire a woman with massive trust issues because of a life time of being used by people for her magic, (2) actively work to ingratiate themselves to her so she would be willing to commit a crime to hide evidence of their crime, and then (3) “confess” an innocent version of the story (she totally had a heart attack or something, probably) a day BEFORE the lawyer was scheduled to arrive to try and convince her to come back. These are lying, manipulative assholes and I can’t believe Mika fell for it TWICE. Also, the bad guy is literally just a diligent lawyer who is following up with a client that has gone missing. Don’t worry, he’s *probably* a racist homophobe, so it’s okay to hate him.