Friday, May 15, 2009

Foiled Again! The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis

Anybody can have a bad day, but Addy McMahon is convinced that her string of bad luck, beginning with her father's death when she was nine, has to be the result of the curse placed upon an unfortunate Irish ancestor who cut down a fairy tree.

For example, there's the small but embarrassing incident where her rival for her best friend's attention sees her mother buying her, as she puts it to the saleslady, "a training bra." Then her mom, only one year, eight months, and three weeks after Addy's beloved father's death, not only has a boyfriend, but invites him to move into their guest room while he looks for a new apartment. Despite the fact that Jonathan is a successful writer, Addy's dream career, she finds his constant advice totally annoying.

But then, there's the BIG thing. When Addy interviews her best friend and co-editor of their school paper, The Seeley Times, for one of her signature up-close-and-personal articles, Jackie confesses, off the record, that she's got a crush on Ezra and he may have one on her. A bit jealous of her friend's sudden interest in boy-girl stuff, Addy vents her annoyance by creating a satiric graphic story of her friend in l-u-u-ve, even kissing with Ez. But when she saves it on her computer and emails her interview column to the kids on the staff to edit, she inadvertently sends the wrong file, and soon the whole school is laughing at Jackie's crush and angry with Addy for embarrassing her best friend publicly. It doesn't help that Addy's rival Marsha Pittel ("that's Pit-TEL, like French") moves right in as Jackie's BFF and takes over Addy's job as co-editor of the Times.

Disgraced and shunned at school and uneasy around the ever-present Jonathan at home, Addy is sure that her life is cursed forever. Depressed, she swears off writing, feeling sure that it is part of her family blight, even destroying the writeup of her last interview with her father before his death. It's a painful time for Addy as she tries to live with the consequences of her actions and the loss of both her friend and her writing. Her only outlet is her private journal, done as a sort of graphic diary which she calls her autobiogra-strips.

There's no fairy magic which makes everything in Addy's life right again. Gradually, she realizes that there's no curse, either--just her own personal responsibility for what she does and says. Addy finds the will to apologize to Jackie over and over until their friendship is reborn, and she even finds a way to apologize to Marsha for coming up with the nickname "The Piddle" for her when she first entered their class.

Understanding comes harder with her mother's relationship with Jonathan, but when she angrily shouts that she just wants her father not to be dead, Jonathan confesses his own feelings when his young wife died, also of cancer, and the two begin a better relationship, "post-curse," based on their shared loss and their shared love for writing.

Katie Davis' The Curse of Addy McMahon, is an impressive first novel, with a sympathetic but realistic character, immature but gifted, dealing with all the messiness of middle school friendships and blended family relationships.

A trailer including some of Davis' graphic illustrations for the book can be seen here.

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