consuming YA fantasy

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HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT is a consuming and engaging YA fantasy about prejudice, grooming, and falling in love. Ever since she learned about it, Shay has been working towards a prestigious scholarship that would basically set her up for life. In this world, everyone has magic, and their abilities are tested in various ways that can lead to them getting into a licensing college or not. Without a license, you can never have an advanced career, as you'll have to work under someone with a license for little pay and no respect. People try for years after high school to get into one of these exclusive institutions, and most will never succeed.

This junior year is the year that Shay can finally apply and hopefully see her dreams beginning to come true. Things begin to shift when the theatre teacher who also judges the scholarships strong-arms her into auditioning for the musical he is doing at the school. There is just something off about Mr. B, but since no one else seems concerned, Shay is willing to try to overlook the things that twist her gut. Her biggest rival for the scholarship, Ana, is also auditioning for the musical, and as they spend time practicing together, Shay will begin to realize that aside from their competition, they actually have a lot in common. As the year heats up, Shay will have to decide who she wants to be and how much she is willing to value this potential scholarship.

What I loved: This is a really consuming read that deals with some heavy topics around prejudice (regarding race, sexuality, etc), grooming and abuse of power, and wealth disparity. Shay has really hung all her hopes around this scholarship, and it leads her to question how much she is willing to do to receive it. This leads to some difficult situations, and the book does a great job of encouraging readers to trust their gut and get help before it is too late, as well as walking out the potential consequences of taking action on this - as well as the ability of those in power to cover it up and the way that it punishes the victim as well.

Beyond this, the book also discusses prejudices faced with microaggressions and stereotypes that are thrown around, as well as the ways that the people on the receiving end are forced to respond - or in many cases unable to respond. Although these had a magical twist, they certainly have clear correlates to the world in which the reader resides. Shay is a really compelling and genuine character through whose eyes the reader experiences these.

The romance was also a really great aspect of the book, and it had a fun enemies-to-lovers (though mostly misunderstanding based) aspect that built slowly. The story manages to capture these aspects as well as the more serious ones amidst the turmoil of a high-achieving year as well as the heavier topics that it also explores.

Final verdict: Overall, HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT combines thought-provoking themes with magical world-building to deliver a relatable story with compelling characters.

Please note that I received an ARC. All opinions are my own.