Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gothic Hoodoo Debutantes

The Magnolia League
I have a problem. If there is a secret society or group who keep their business very private, I become obsessed with it. I have a friend whose boyfriend is a Mason, and I am dying to know what goes on in those highly secretive meetings (but he won't tell!). I am fascinated by Voodoo, Hoodoo, Obeah, and anything from the Louisiana Cajun culture- its so cool and creepy at the same time! Bohemian Grove? I would totally break into that place if I had a chance. And the strange Southern Gothic nature of Savannah has always made me wish I could go down there and not automatically be an "outsider" (aka be let in on all the bizarre stuff that goes on). So naturally, The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch was right up my alley! Who wouldn't love a story about debutantes dabbling in hoodoo, right?!

Alexandria Lee grew up on a communal farm in California where here mother made and sold tinctures to help people. Sure the farm might have grown a little pot, but mostly they were about communal living, organic produce, and "sticking it to the man". When Alex's mom is suddenly killed in a horrific car accident, she is forced to leave the commune- the only home she ever knew. Now she has to move to Savannah, Georgia to live with her grandmother, the leader of the Magnolia League. The Magnolia League is a group of old high society women who run the town. They also run the Debutante ball, something Alex, dreadlocks, 70's band T-shirts, and all, has no plans of participating in.

What Alex isn't aware of is that the Magnolia League has secrets- dark ones- dark magic ones. The Magnolia League, since Alex's grandmother created it, has been the biggest customer of the Buzzard family- the local hoodoo practitioners. They get all their magic, love potions, appearance spells, and hexes, from the Buzzards. At first, Alex is intrigued by the hoodoo, but still wants to be herself, pudgy and all. But slowly the Magnolias wear her down, and then she quickly begins to enjoy the perks. Her dreads are gone and instantly replaced with beautiful new hair, and her body changes, losing weight while her appetite is insatiable. She even starts dating the brother of a fellow young Magnolia, the hottest guy in school. Alex should be happy, but there is the nagging feeling that since everything happened because of magic, it can't be real. Soon, she starts to see the bad side of using so much magic- especially since it might have been the reason her mother died.

My biggest problem with this novel is that it was so great for the first 3/4 of the story- I was hooked, couldn't put it down. Then it just seemed to become an information dump to wrap some stuff up and open up the rest for the sequel. I really loved how this story was developed, loved the characters and liked both sides of the magic, from the Magnolias and the Buzzards. Then it just crashed at the very end for me. Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting where it ended up? Usually I appreciate twists in a plot, but this twist seemed rushed and undeveloped. I wish it had been explained more. I would have sacrificed some of Alex's transformation for a more thorough ending. Instead it just ENDED... I mean literally got you on the edge of your seat and done.

The language was fairly tame. The content wasn't overwhelmingly mature, although there was a great deal of talk about smoking pot (not glorifying it, but definitely there). Drinking is common, but more of a backdrop to the social engagements than the focus. The hoodoo is incredibly interesting, but nothing is graphic or overly violent. To be honest, I would love to give this book to a kid, probably junior high and up, but I would make sure the sequel was out before I suggested it to anyone- otherwise you are going to have a pretty angry reader when they finish the book! I know I was fairly peeved!

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