Parties and Potions (Magic in Manhattan #4)

So I completely intended to have this series finished by Halloween, but I got caught up in finishing my costume and tending to other adult matters (boo!). But, you know, it’s still fall, so I can still technically review books that take place in autumn and be on time. And besides, there are other fall books on the docket, so we need to get going on those before Christmas is upon us.

Rachel Weinstein, now a high school sophomore, is a much more practiced witch now. The next step for her and her sister Miri is to participate in a Samsorta, a debutante ball of sorts for witches, where they will formally come out in witch society. Beforehand, they have to take all kinds of classes and meet their magical peers. Except, the deeper Rachel goes into her magical life, the harder it becomes to hide it from her best friend Tammy, and especially from her boyfriend Raf. 

This series is definitely an example of each book building more in story and character from the previous entry. Rachel grows more mature and makes some of the toughest decisions in the series. But beyond that, we finally get a real glimpse of the magical world Rachel and Miri will soon join, and it is pretty refreshing to step away from the mundane world.

The one thing that really irks me about this entry is the love triangle between Rachel, her boyfriend Raf, and her new warlock friend Adam. 

I will say, this love triangle is mostly tolerable. Rachel’s devotion to Raf never wavers, even when it seems like Adam, who better understands her witch life, might be the better fit. Of course, Rachel still questions if a relationship with Adam might be easier, but that does not make her comfortable with Adam’s affection.

Adam is actually kind of a creep. After learning about Rachel’s relationship with Raf, he asks her if she would rather be with Raf, a non-magical guy, when she has some perfectly good warlocks available. It was supposed to be an innocent question, but he sounded like a pick-me boy in my head, and it irked me.

Minor spoilers, but Rachel becomes so overwhelmed with deciding whether she should tell Raf about her powers that she breaks up with him. Very soon after, she gets a phone call from Adam, and she asks how he got her phone number. He casually explains that since he’s a warlock, he can get anything he wants.

Again, a seemingly innocent statement that came off as a privacy violation and a very wrongful power move.

Adam even has the gall to invite Rachel to be his date for his own coming-out party and jokes that he won’t make out with her unless she wants him to.

Dude…you just learned that this girl is going through a breakup and you’re already putting the moves on her? You’re even going to pull her in closer during dances and put your arm around her when she is visibly uncomfortable with it?

Maybe Rachel is a little dumb for calling Adam a good friend even after those really questionable actions.

Luckily, there is plenty more to focus on. 

There is this one confusing aspect of the magical world where you identify as a grey witch or a pink witch, depending on how much magic you use. It’s the magical equivalent of how big your carbon footprint is, which isn’t really explained much. Is using too much magic bad for the environment? The balance of nature? It’s not a huge detail, but it could have used a bit more exploration.

There isn’t much more to say about this final entry, but I do want to touch base on one or two things from the whole series I liked.

Maybe part of why I liked this series growing up is the dynamic between Rachel and Miri. They get into their sibling spats, but it’s so sweet how much they care for and support each other. When Miri gets her first crush, Rachel cannot stop asking about the guy and wanting to set her sister up for success. Miri comes to Rachel’s rescue during her initial magical mishaps and talks her up during her lowest moments too.

Although Rachel is not a favorite YA character for me (she goes on too many blathering tangents), it’s still nice to see her grow her friend group and become truly mature by the series’ end. Her story has a satisfying end, even if there were other avenues for further books to explore.

On the whole, the Magic in Manhattan series is a fun, if flawed, young adult series. It’s a nice gateway story into younger chick lit, if only to foster a brief obsession with witchcraft (not that that happened to me when I was twelve). I’m not sure it’s still a go-to comfort read, but it still holds a fond place on my bookshelf.

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