Magic and Misery by Peter Marino

Holiday House, 2009     ISBN: 9780823421336

Another stereotypical teen novel in which the girl (Toni Jo), has a crush on the guy (Pan, short for Pansy–yes really), only to find out he is gay. Stuck together in their miserable little town where nothing’s happening, they swear best friendship and loyalty to each other, only to have it shaken when teen jock, Caspar, falls for Toni Jo.

Pan acts like a jealous boyfriend, and Toni Jo lies to both boys, alienating each of them: not telling Pan when she has a date with Caspar, and not telling Caspar that the reason she can’t go to the prom with him is that she already promised to go with Pan.

Meanwhile, Pan is the victim of increasing harassment from two classmates, and refuses to complain to school authorities. Nothing Amy can say will convince him to report the abuse, and ultimately, he and his family decide they need to move out of the area.

While there is nothing glaringly wrong with this book, it isn’t a strong title. None of the characters is well-developed, and the dialogue is occasionally wooden. Caspar is consistently portrayed as somewhat slow on the draw, and it isn’t clear what Toni Jo sees in him beyond the fact that she’s desperate for male attention.  And Pan’s jealous behavior comes close to being the frightening sort which parents ought to be warning their daughters against.

Marino is a playwright and has published a previous novel that was well-received.

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