Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough2009; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.(courtesy of Goodreads)
Tamsin Greene's mother can run at super-sonic speed, her father can control the weather, and her sister can bend people's will by just talking. Tamsin? She can do diddly squat. It's like being a toy poodle in a family of doberman pinschers. Understandably, Tamsin is a little sensitive about being a talentless teen in a powerful witching family. She's happily ensconced in boarding school in Manhattan. But her life becomes intertwined with her family when she pretends to be her sister and agrees to retrieve a clock for a stranger. This little task becomes incredibly complicated and awakens powers Tamsin didn't know she had.
I loved Once A Witch. The story flowed quickly and smoothly. The fantasy element was a unique twist on sorcery and was well-explained. The characters were likeable and believable. They didn't have particularly unique personalities, but they weren't so cardboard that I felt like I could tip them over. The romantic element was there with a cute, slightly over-confident, nice, helpful guy.
Tamsin was a great character. In this book, she goes from being nothing to being something (I don't think it's a spoiler to say this much). Her feelings of inferiority are fully understandable, as is her desire to prove herself. Her fear, anger, and amazement at discovering who she is was also believable. She's not by nature a kick-butt type of girl, but when something needs to be done, she steps up to the plate. These are my favorite kind of girls. I also liked her roommate Agatha. She was your stereotypical kooky best friend, but not so crazy that she became annoying. Gabriel is great. Handsome and self-confident. While he's Talented, his family life is sad enough that he can really relate to Tamsin's life as a Talentless freak. Together they make a great team - their abilities play off one another well. I like that he wasn't the overprotective type. There actually isn't a lot of romance in this book. I could have used a nice kissing scene or two, but the tension was fun. There's potential for lots more!
My only issue with this book was the presence of smoking and drinking. The characters casually drank and smoked. This is nothing new in YA, but usually you see alcohol at parties or as part of a plot device. Here, they just drank for no reason - like a shot of vodka before studying. Similar with the cigarettes. There's nothing really wrong with this...if anything it's reflective of many teens' lives, but it stuck out as odd and something not to be encouraged. But that's just me on my goody-two-shoes high horse.
Once a Witch is a fabulous story that sucks you right in. I loved the family element to the novel. I also loved how some of the odd references earlier in the story made a lot more sense later on. The story concludes nicely, but still leaves you ready and waiting for the sequel.