Book Review: Spelled, by Kate St. Clair

Back in prehistoric times, when I was a kid, my parents wanted me to become an enthusiastic reader. Toward that end, they took the position that it didn’t really matter what I read, as long as I was reading. This led to my accumulating a large collection of comic books and checking out every science fiction novel I could find from the L.A. public library’s “bookmobile” that regularly visited my elementary school. (I can still remember the first sci-fi book I ever read: The Red Planet, by Robert A. Heinlein.) My parents’ approach worked, and I became an avid reader.

With this in mind, and after meeting writer Kate St. Clair at a local authors’ “meet and greet” at a nearby bookstore on California Bookstore Day (where I was also one of the participating authors), I decided to check out her young adult targeted novella, Spelled, published by Black Hill Press this past February.

In the course of her short book, St. Clair tells the story of the Sayers family through the voice of Georgia Sayers, the eldest of five siblings. We quickly learn that the children live with their stepfather, their mother being deceased and their biological father being someone whose critical role will become evident later in the story. As the tale progresses, we learn that Georgia and her sibs have an unusual and supernatural heritage that sets them apart from all but one other fellow student, a boy older than Georgia but one whom she begins to tutor in English. As Georgia, her three sisters, and her brother come to grips with their previously unknown family legacy, they face unexpected stresses and risks, and ultimately learn much about themselves that will finally bring them closer together than they have ever been in the past.

The book seems aimed at an audience of adolescent girls in roughly the 12 to 16 age range, and one can easily imagine it as the start of a series of stories about the family. It also contains precisely the kind of youth-oriented setup that could provide the seed for a series on “The CW”. By the time I had finished reading the book, it had occurred to me that it would be an excellent “stocking stuffer” for parents wanting to encourage their kids as readers.

In Spelled, Ms. St. Clair has nicely captured adolescent behavior, including especially some of Georgia’s uncertainties and angst over how to deal with life’s challenges and relate interpersonally with those around her. She tells a story that involves the supernatural while grounding it in real world decision making and the stresses that come with it.

My only criticism of the book is that I came across a few proofing glitches, but these were relatively minor and did not detract from the overall reading experience. In an age when books are no longer traditionally typeset but, rather, are uploaded from word processed files, proofreading can suffer. In this regard, Spelled isn’t unique, but the potential for inadvertent retention of typographic errors mandates special care before approving final galleys.

Recommended for the younger end of the YA audience

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