The Charmed List by Julie Abe ARC Review

The Charmed List by Julie Abe

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: July 5, 2022

Pages: 304

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Cover Artist: Vi-an Nguyen

[Received an ARC through Yallwest]

Summary: After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road-trip with her best friend Lia. But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A story full of magic, second chances and of course romance, Julie Abe’s YA debut The Charmed List follows Ellie and after a revenge prank gone wrong, she’s stuck taking a road trip with her rival and former childhood best friend Jack Yasuda! However, the charm of this novel is not only the magical society that blends seamlessly into the California setting, but also Ellie herself whose voice delivers lighthearted, comedic moments in this charming coming-of-age story. A magical, rom-com YA debut!

I think what I love about Julie Abe’s stories, which is even more apparent in her debut to Young Adult, is how she seamlessly blends magic into her stories where the fantastical elements to the world feels lived in and with so much to explore. This is definitely something I noticed about her writing as I’m also reading her middle grade series Eva Evergreen!!

Ellie Kobata lives in Palo Alto which is one of many magically-aware communities, however magic comes in different forms such as foods like boba teas to stationary, it can even be harnessed within the air itself. This summer she’s got quite a list planned calling it her Anti-Wallflower list, she’s also ready to take a road trip with her best friend Lia to help her family’s business by setting up their booth at a magical convention (CMRC).

However when something goes terribly wrong, she’s stuck taking the road trip with her rival and now enemy, Jack Yasuda and if they don’t reach the convention with some sort of resolve, they’ll suffer consequences. During the trip, their many stops allow them to see each other in a different way and figure out what went wrong with their friendship. As they reconcile, its about seeing the distance that unfolded throughout their long history together. Ellie & Jack realize there’s a lot they need to forgive and discover about their relationship as they’re stuck together for a long drive through Southern California.

The road trip becomes such a fun and heartfelt way to see Jack & Ellie set their differences aside, perhaps learning more about each other, taking down those walls that they put up many years ago.

This was such a perfect YA Contemporary to start the summer! Abe’s descriptions about the magical society from businesses to a variety of local establishments, in addition to the little charms that keep the magic-aware a secret (like illusions for magical cottages), added many marvelous little elements to the equally contemporary story that made the world feel not only well established but leaves the reader wanting to know more.

Ellie’s voice throughout this story, wow! Reading from her POV, I got the perfect execution of rivals to lovers (I mean Jack and Ellie’s families run competing businesses). However, there are moments where the ideas of the Anti-Wallflower list actually detracted from my enjoyment of the magical world and rivals romance because Ellie herself (to me) never felt like such a wallflower. If anything, I wished that reading from her POV gave even more insight into the magical parts of the society from Sorcerer’s Square, to the different charms that can be conjured, even the foods and businesses that are secretly full of magic, even the literal convention for magical businesses, those parts of the story were the most interesting and I think Ellie’s “wallflower” voice overtook all the great world-building that could have been explored more.

The characters all felt well developed and the setting itself was definitely one of my favorites. However, easily what became the element to the magic system I loved the most was how it weaved together the inclusion of small businesses, food and a whole society itself that functions with a Lead across communities, among the other establishments that are made for the magic-aware! Abe’s worldbuilding leaves you curious as to how much more there is to discover about magical society.

While it definitely leaves you wanting to know a bit more, especially about Abe’s exceptional contemporary fantasy worldbuilding, its such a delightful YA standalone with such a fun romance!!

The Charmed List is a sweet, magical romcom that delivers such an intriguing world, a fun enemies-to-lovers romance, where ultimately it’s a coming-of-age story about second chances!

9 thoughts on “The Charmed List by Julie Abe ARC Review

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