Published by Hardie Grant Egmont on April 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Romance, Young Adult
Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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The unsolvable problem: If Sophia is a genius, why can’t she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?
Fact: Sophia is smart. As in, certified-child-prodigy, breezing-through-uni-subjects-even-though-she’s-only-in-year-twelve smart. This terrifies her, because geniuses have a tendency to end up as recluses and weirdos – and with her current social ineptness, she’s halfway there already.
Truth: Joshua is good at magic tricks, ignoring most things about year twelve, and not thinking at all about life after high school.
Fact: Sophia can’t even talk to her best friend Elsie about her anxieties, because Elsie is firmly focused on her own future – and on plans that will mean leaving Sophia behind.
Truth: Joshua has had a secret crush on Sophia since forever, but he doesn’t have forever to act on it.
Fact: There are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for … and the messiness of the real world is one of them.
Truth: Timing is everything.
The long-awaited YA novel from the award-winning author of Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl.
The Secret Science of Magic is an incredibly relatable contemporary story about figuring out who you are and what to do with your life. It features two charming characters who you can’t help but root for and if that’s not enough, there’s also lots of science and a sprinkle of magic.
Sophia is a math genius and has always had a hard time making friends because of her social anxiety. She has her best friend, Elsie, and that’s always been enough for her. But recently Sophia’s been having a bit of an existential crisis and is worried about wasting her potential. She becomes obsessed with a Russian mathematician who went from being a genius to disappearing off the face of the earth, and becomes exceedingly worried that the same thing will happen to her. Elsie is confident in her future and her decision to study abroad but Sophia is less sure about her potential and where the future will take her. But when she gets to know Josh, things start to change and she begins to realise that not everything needs to be precise and have a neat ending like the mathematical problems that she loves so much. Josh is a tall, lanky and seemingly equally friendless guy in Sophia’s biology class. He’s great at doing magic tricks and has a large group of friends outside of school who he can relate to and have fun with. He’s intelligent but doesn’t seem to place the same importance on school that Sophia does, or his father wants him to. He gets to know Sophia by filling her days with little sprinkles of magic and he’s intent on showing her how he feels about her even if it means getting his heart broken.
I’m afraid of wasting my life. I’m afraid that I’m just synapses and neurotransmitters, but maybe there’s nothing else there. Maybe that’s all I am?
I loved this novel so much. It was extremely easy to relate to all of Sophia’s worries about her future and who she wants to become. As someone who’s reaching the end of her PhD, it’s something that I think about a lot and I really connected with all of her concerns and found her character to be someone who I could understand really well. Another thing that I loved about Sophia was that she was a STEM girl because there’s a severe lack of STEM ladies in YA in my opinion. I liked her passion for science and mathematics and that she’s a perfect example that women can be just as badass as men in these disciplines. There were quite a lot of scientific references in the book, not all of which I could understand, but I don’t think it hindered my enjoyment of the novel. I also really connected with Josh and found him to be really endearing and I enjoyed all the things that he did for Sophia in this book. The interactions between Sophia and Josh were also fantastic and I found their awkwardness to be really adorable as well as relatable because that’s what first love is. Their relationship progressed in a really slow and natural way from being just acquaintances to something more. I also really enjoyed all the little bits of magic that were in the book and thought they were all really exciting and captivating, and it definitely kept me interested in the story from the very beginning.
The Secret Science of Magic is a relatable and captivating coming-of-age story with two main characters who you will fall in love with. The novel was beautifully written and perfectly combines scientific elements with magic.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for providing a review copy of the book.
The Secret Science of Magic is now available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.
Q&A with Melissa Keil
I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Melissa a couple of questions about The Secret Science of Magic.
1. I absolutely love the title of this book and how it mixes both science and magic, both of which are major themes in the book. How did you arrive at this title and was it the first one that came to mind?
The Secret Science of Magic was always the title of the book, right from the beginning – both of my other novels had a working titles that changed as the publication date loomed, but with this one both myself and my publishers were pretty happy with the original title! I wanted something that spoke to the interconnectedness between the two characters and their individual personalities and interests – they should have nothing in common, but in fact, they share quite a bit!
2. The novel contains a lot of science, history and magic, which must have required a lot of research. What was your research process like for this book?
Really long and involved (and fun and super weird). I read a lot of popular science and maths books, watched a lot of magic on YouTube, and generally got to indulge in reading and viewing heaps of interesting, bizarre, seemingly unrelated stuff, much of which found its way into Joshua and Sophia’s brains.
3. I found the magic aspect of the book to be fascinating. Was it something that you’ve always had an interest in and what inspired you to incorporate it into this novel?
Actually no, I’ve never really had an interest in magic or magicians! But I remembered watching a particular David Copperfield trick on YouTube years ago which was pretty amazing – when I started playing around with the idea of these two characters, this trick was the first thing that came to mind. It ended up being pretty central to the plot (no spoilers, but if you read the book you’ll recognize the trick 🙂 )
4. There are a lot of different and fun characters in The Secret Science of Magic. Is there a character that you relate to or see yourself in the most?
I think there is little bits of me in all of my characters, but one of the most fun parts of creating a book is figuring out who these people are in their own right – they always feel like individuals to me, with their own personalities and quirks and strengths and weaknesses.
5. If you could be extraordinary at one thing (besides writing), what would it be?
Oh, it would definitely be some sort of musical talent – the ability to play the piano like a pro (without all those fiddly lessons and practice of course!)