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Review: The Charmed List by Julie Abe

The Charmed List by Julie Abe

The Charmed List
Julie Abe
Wednesday Books
Published July 5, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Charmed List

After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road-trip with her best friend Lia.

But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.

In THE CHARMED LIST, Julie Abe sweeps readers away to a secret magical world, complete with cupcakes and tea with added sparks of joy, and an enchanted cottage where you can dance under the stars.

My Review

So… somehow I missed that this book had magic in it? I went back and read the cover copy, and it does talk about there being charms and a “secret magical world”, but I guess I assumed that was metaphorical? Whoops on my part.

It isn’t a bad thing for THE CHARMED LIST to have magic. I just wasn’t expecting that when I started reading, so I felt thrown for a chapter or two. Once I understood the magic system and how it worked, I connected with the story more.

I enjoyed the fact that their families have sort of rival businesses or roles in the community. And the setup of Ellie and Jack being forced to go on the road trip together was great. I loved that.

One of the things that kind of bugged me was the history between Ellie and Jack and even her feelings about him. It felt like she made some pretty harsh judgments about him at a time when he was deeply grieving. I kind of wished they talked more specifically about that and that Ellie had more opportunity to own that perhaps she made some mistakes, too. There’s a little bit of that.

The whole premise is that she and Jack had a big falling out that she’s still nursing hurt feelings over, and I could understand her feeling hurt over what happened. What was hard to understand was that she never considered that he’d just lost his mom, whom they were both close to. I guess I felt like Ellie sometimes came across as shallow and selfish.

That aside, I enjoyed the story’s awkward flirty moments, secret magical towns, and lots of the side characters in the book. Ellie’s sister and Jack’s brother are probably my favorites, but I really liked Ellie’s best friend, too.

All in all, this was a fun summertime read with a little magic sprinkled in. I think readers who enjoy books by Sandhya Menon will enjoy THE CHARMED LIST.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Major characters are Japanese American.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Some characters have the ability to make charms from recipes. They imbue things like luck to the user. Many people are unaware of the existence of the magic or places that sell magical items. Their existence is a closely guarded secret.

Violent Content

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE CHARMED LIST in exchange for my honest review.

Review: How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

How to Be Brave
E. Katherine Kottaras
St. Martin’s Griffin/St. Martin’s Press

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

In the wake of her mother’s unexpected death, Georgia struggles with the advice her mom left behind. She told Georgia to be brave and do everything, and with the help of her friends, Georgia sets out to do just that. She makes a list of fifteen things she wants to do, ranging from trapeze classes to kissing the boy she’s had a crush on forever. As Georgia pursues checking the items off the list, she learns that loss is a part of life. That she’ll have to fight for happiness and push through adversity, even when sometimes it’s of her own making.

I loved the descriptions of Georgia’s exploration of painting and how that was such a cathartic experience for her. It made me want to take up painting myself or spend many long afternoons wandering art museums. I liked Daniel, Georgia’s crush, and thought he was definitely worthy of her. Her relationship with her dad felt so authentic – this suddenly single dad dealing with a teenage girl in the midst of his own grief and just so lost on what to do. I also felt so sad for Georgia as she struggled to be patient with him but also to find ways to express her needs. Not an easy time for a girl to be without her mom.

Georgia definitely proved her bravery in her ability to rise to challenges life brought her. I loved that she was compassionate and had these moments of real insight into the girls around her. It’s definitely something I wished I had during my own high school experience.

I liked that Georgia wasn’t the typical girl. She was very real about her insecurities over how she looked and even about her embarrassment over her mom being heavy. She wanted to embrace valuing a person for who they are rather than how they look, but it wasn’t like this easy thing, even though she loved her mom. Her experiences felt authentic and yet they didn’t take over the story. Georgia’s journey isn’t about shedding pounds and becoming the popular girl with the hot boyfriend. It’s about self-discovery and what brings value to our lives: friends, love, art.

Language Content
Extreme profanity used frequently.

Sexual Content
Brief kissing. One of Georgia’s friends plans to have sex with her boyfriend. (The event is not described.)

Spiritual Content
Georgia’s father is Greek Orthodox but the family rarely attends. Georgia describes art as her mother’s god.


Drug Content
Feeling justified by her mother’s counsel to “try everything,” Georgia and her friends experiment with marijuana (shown in several scenes), cigarettes and alcohol. The consequences, particularly of the pot, lead Georgia to regret her decision.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

So… I don’t like spiders. I’m not as terrified as some, but I’m NOT a fan. My best friend called me one night in a panic over a huge arachnid in her apartment. I drove over to help her hunt the critter down and destroy it. I remember arriving, stepping inside and looking at the gargantuan thing and then looking at my friend and saying, “I don’t think I can kill that.” (What IS it about large spiders that make it so much more than a bug? It’s like a strange intelligence or more-than-animal-ness or something totally creepy.) Anyway, after so much wailing and screaming that I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police, we killed the beastie, and peace was restored. (Love you, Beth!!)