Amethyst by Rebecca Henry

Amethyst by Rebecca Henry
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

She was sent away because of her feelings for another girl. But what she discovered at her aunts’ lake house was a birthright of magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zinnia is about to turn fourteen when her life is flipped upside down. With her parents on the brink of a divorce, Zinnia is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric great-aunts at their lake house away from her home in Manhattan. Zinnia arrives at her aunts’ massive Victorian house with a heavy heart after a recent falling out with her best friend Charlotte, who betrayed her trust by showing the meanest and most popular girl in school a letter Zinnia wrote confessing her feelings for Charlotte. The aunts rely on practical magic, acceptance and old family friends to help heal their great-niece in more ways than one.

What Zinnia discovers on Ambrosia Hill is more than just her birthright to magic—she meets Billie, a girl who conjures feelings inside Zinnia that she can no longer deny.

What’s better than a summer in the countryside?

It can be hard for kids to understand topics like divorce and marital conflict. Zinnia was a smart teenager, but even she struggled with the idea that her parents were fighting and might not stay together. Some of the most memorable scenes in this novella were the ones that explored her feelings on this topic and tried to explain her parents’ anger with each other in ways that were appropriate for a fourteen-year-old to hear. These aren’t easy things to discuss by any means, but they are quite important. The author did a great job of giving Zinnia a chance to understand her parents a little better than she had before and to learn about how adult relationships sometimes work.

I would have loved to see more character development in this piece. As intrigued as I was by the setting and plot, it was disappointing to meet characters whose personalities weren’t well defined and who didn’t seem to grow very much as a result of their experiences even when they were the main focus of the storyline. There seemed to be plenty of opportunities for them to do so. I simply needed more examples of them reacting to those moments, sharing their personalities in more complex ways, and showing the audience how they’d changed.

The world building was delightful. I loved the way magic was woven into every facet of the characters’ daily lives, from the messages that were left in the arrangements of soggy tea leaves in the bottom of a teacup to the spells the aunts cast to help their visitors reach any number of personal goals. It wasn’t always clear to me where the magic ended and ordinary explanations for certain events began. I reveled in how beautifully ordinary the author made certain scenes feel even if they included moments that can’t be explained with modern science or physics. There is something special about visiting a world that accepts these shades of grey and invites the reader to come up with their own explanations for them.

Amethyst was a playful read.

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