Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
ISBN-13: 978-054722399-5
Clarion Books, New York, 2009
312 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Witches, Time Travel

TEASER: Every member of Tamsin’s family is a powerful witch…except her.

SUMMARY: Tamsin comes from a long line of witches. When she was born, there was a prophecy that she would be the most powerful among her family. But her powers never appear. She grows up feeling like an outcast. She tries to distance herself from her talented family members as much as possible by attending boarding school in Manhattan. When she’s home she must work in the family bookstore/magic shop. One day when working in the shop she accepts a job from a handsome stranger, pretending to be her talented sister. But Tamsin’s in way over her head. With the help of Gabriel, a childhood friend, Tamsin must go on a quest through time that will unlock secrets of her family and even herself.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through the protagonist, Tamsin. The characters are well written. Tamsin feel like an outcast from her family. She distance herself physically and emotionally from her talented sister and parents. Tamsin assumes that her family is ashamed of her but she realizes throughout the novel that her own self hatred blinded her to how much her family cares for her. Much of Tamsin’s bitterness is tied to her older sister Rowena who is an extremely gifted witch. She is also smart, beautiful, and is about to marry a kind, handsome young man. Rowena’s character is also given depth. We see later in the novel that she isn’t so perfect, nor does she want to be.

The plot was unique and will keep you on your toes. The dialogue is witty. This books has a lot of elements to it, a little bit of mystery, magic, romance, and time travel. Warning, this books is the first in a series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn MacCullough was born and raised in Connecticut. She has traveled to Iceland, Scotland, and taught English in Sicily. She teaches creative writing to adults and teenagers at Gotham Writers Inc. and the New School. Her other novels are <emAlways a Witch, Falling Through Darkness, Drawing the Ocean, and Stealing Henry.

McCullough says she always wanted to be a writer, except for those times she wanted to be a ballerina, veterinarian, pilot, or princess. She currently resides in New York City. She claims that she spends just as much time writing as she does procrastinating.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.carolynmaccullough.com

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some may challenge the fact that this book contains witchcraft and underage drinking and smoking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel time travel was dealt with in this book? Do you see this as a new trend within the genre?

WHY INCLUDED: This title caught my attention because the main character was the one without magical powers. I included it for it’s originality and complex characters.

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