Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Young Adult Fiction Review: Magic Street

Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors. I didn’t think I liked science fiction much until I read his fabulous series that begins with the renowned Ender’s Game, which is also a favorite of my 14-year old son.

Card’s young adult fantasy novel Magic Street is very different from the Ender books but is still a worthwhile read. The central character of this unique urban fantasy is Mack Street, a boy who lives in an affluent African-American suburb of Los Angeles. Mack began his life in a very unusual way: he was found as a newborn in a plastic shopping bag, left in an empty field in the neighborhood where he would eventually grow up.

Another boy in the neighborhood, Ceese (short for Cecil), finds the baby and brings him to his next-door neighbor who is a nurse:

“What is it?” she said. “I got no time right now for – “
Seeing the baby changed her whole attitude. “Please God, let that not be yours.”
“Found it,” said Ceese. “Covered with ants up in that little valley on Cloverdale. Mama said take it to you.”
“Why? Does she think it’s mine?” said Miz Smitcher.
“No, ma’am,” said Ceese.
Miz Smitcher sighed. “Let’s get that baby to the hospital.”
Ceese made as if to hand the baby to her.
She recoiled. “I got to drive, boy! You got a baby seat in your pocket? No? Then you coming along to hold that child.”
Ceese didn’t argue. Seemed like once he picked that baby up, he couldn’t get nobody else to take it no matter what he said or did.

That’s the beginning of a unique bond between Ceese and Mack, who is adopted by Miz Smitcher and babysat each day by Ceese. They grow up like brothers, but when Mack starts to notice that his dreams have a strange sort of magical power, he keeps that to himself. As a young teen, Mack discovers an entryway to a magical world that only he can see, and his explorations lead him to discover things about himself. Ultimately, Mack finds himself at the center of an epic battle between good and evil.

Magic Street, like other Card books, is a suspenseful novel populated by memorable characters, but its urban setting in LA and Shakespeare-inspired fantasy set it apart. Card explains in his acknowledgments that he created this book especially for a friend who complained that there were too few African-American heroes in novels. While Card does create likeable and heroic characters in both Mack and Ceese, his black street-talk dialogue often seems artificial and silly, especially in the setting of a prosperous African-American community filled with professionals and middle to upper-class citizens. Despite this flaw, the book is a clever and compelling fantasy tale; both my teen son and I enjoyed it very much.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for stopping by Paperback Frenzy and leaving a comment on my review of The Mysterious Benedict Society. So glad to hear that your family enjoyed it too! - Stephanie

Erin said...

I'm reading Ender's Game right now and think it's fantastic. I'll have to check this out, too.

Andrea said...

I love Magic Street and the Midsummer Night's connection. That was such a good book!