This was a cute low fantasy reading with a great sapphic rivals-to-lovers romance, amazing friendship and wonderful parents, but also an unexpectedly dark and disturbing story with difficult topics, such as grooming by a teacher, manipulation, racism and homophobia.
The story follows the overachieving teen witch Shay, who in order to have a better chance at winning a desperately needed scholarship at her elite high school, joins the school musical upon her drama teacher, and scholarship donor, Mr B’s request. Just as her arch enemy and scholarship competitor, Ana, does. But as Lex, Shay’s best friend, keeps pointing out, isn’t Shay just a little too obsessed with Ana, beyond competing for the same scholarship?
I really loved the relatable characters, and the diversity and representation in this book, with a brown lesbian MC, a bisexual love interest, and several black, cuban and filipino characters. Shay is out to her closest friends and family, but not to her other schoolmates (or teachers, like Mr. B). Since her parents are struggling financially, Shay knows she has to get a scholarship to be able to fulfil her dreams and puts a lot of pressure on herself. I could really relate to the academic pressure that Shay feels, but I had some problems with the way she pushed that pressure onto her best friend Lex as well. Overall, I really loved their friendship though.
I also liked how involved and supportive Shay’s parents were, and the part with the academic rivals to lovers was so cute. I loved the banter between Shay and Ana!
I would have wished for the magic to play a bigger role though. The magic system wasn’t fully explained and the story felt much more like contemporary one and not like a fantasy, as the magic didn’t really impact it. But my main issue with this book was the grooming part. I went into this book expecting a fun, witchy, YA fantasy with a great sapphic rivals-to-lovers story. And while that was part of the story (and very well executed!), too much of the story was about the drama teacher being predatory and trying to manipulate Shay into an inappropriate relationship. The creepy grooming plot took over the story for most parts, which made me feel very uneasy as to the disgusting behavior by Mr. B and also by the way Shay couldn’t stand up for herself, but was so desperate to get the scholarship that she traded her integrity for it.
So, I feel a bit conflicted about how to rate this book. Leaving out the grooming part, it would have been a five star read for me – I absolutely loved the friendship, the rivalry banter and the sapphic romance parts! But since the predatory teacher plot was major part of it, I have to settle for 3.5 stars rounding up to 4.
I really enjoyed the book as a whole though, and truly recommend it. Just be aware of the trigger warning for grooming by a teacher, and homophobia, before reading it.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez