The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil
Published April 1, 2017 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: 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 Secret Science of Magic is the much-anticipated third book from Melissa Keil. Seventeen year old Sophia Reyhart is in Year 12 at a Catholic high school in Melbourne. She's incredibly smart, especially when it comes to maths and science. But she's started experiencing panic attacks, especially when she thinks about her future. Sophia finds herself obsessively interested in a former maths prodigy, Gregori Perelman, who now lives as a recluse in Russia. Joshua Bailey is in Sophia's year at school, but despite his massive crush on her, she's barely noticed him. Josh excels at magic tricks and is also unsure about his future. He's smart but lately he hasn't been trying very hard when it comes to homework or studying, which he fears is a bad example for his younger sister, Gillian.
Keil excels at writing about realistic characters that readers will be able to relate to, and both Sophia and Joshua embody experiences that teens will understand. Sophia in particular struggles with making friends, not understanding jokes, feeling insecure and embarrassed. But she's also proud of her intelligence. Josh feels similar things but is able to be himself a lot more and not care what classmates think of his hobbies.
I adored the friendships in this story. Josh's friends include some characters from Keil's previous books so fans will get a kick out of that, I know I did! And Sophia's best friend, Elsie Nayer, was supportive and understanding, while at the same time struggling with similar worries about the future.
It was also wonderful to read a story about a diverse set of characters. Sophia and her family are Sri Lankan, Elsie and her family are Indian. But while we're introduced to Sophia's older brother, Toby, we don't meet her parents (I read an ARC, so maybe this changed in the final version, or perhaps I'm mistaken) and the absence of her parents was something that stood out to me. Josh's family are more present, as are Elsie's, and I think a lot of teens will relate to the pressure Josh feels from his father to pick a uni course.
A really sweet element of the story was Josh's love for magic and all the little tricks he created for Sophia. He's loved her for years and it was nice to see Sophia to open herself up to the idea of love and relationships, without having her fall in love instantly. I liked how cautious she was because I'm sure there will be teens who share her feelings.
I recently read another book about a science-loving girl, Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan, so if you like stories about smart girls, I recommend that once you've read TSSoM.
Ableist language: crazy, dumb, insane, lame, idiot, demented.
The Secret Science of Magic is a story filled with heart, hope, and possibilities. You'll feel for Sophia, you'll be enchanted by Josh, and you'll be inspired to just be yourself.
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for my copy.
Cover design: Evi O.
Isn't this a fantastic cover? It's eye-catching, it's unique, it suits the story perfectly. I love it.
Blue is often a colour I struggle to match and in the end I had to go with Barry M Damson, which is a couple of shades darker, but is close enough!