I just read Magic Exists by Kim Booth. I was lucky enough to actually have time to just sit and read this book in one day, but it has a strong storyline and could have been read in bits and pieces in stolen moments of time over a longer course of time. I absolutely recommend this book to a wide YA audience!
I was a little concerned reading the description of the book, that there might be a lot of violence making it inappropriate for a classroom. However, while there is frequent mention of the main character, Milly, being abused by her family, the focus of the book is how she survives it and learns to overcome it. The pointed lesson of the book is how she is surrounded by love and how she can improve her lot in the world through understanding and love. It is possible that a reader might be triggered by a particular scene of abuse, but if the reader can make it through that, the book is full of healing.
In some ways, this is a revisit to The Secret Garden. We begin the story learning about the coping strategies attempted by Milly, a thirteen year old girl, suffering school bullying and parent neglect/abuse. Her coping strategies have allowed her to survive, but she is certainly not thriving, except in drama class when she can pretend to be someone else. We see the dichotomy of attentiveness between her mother and her grandmother as Milly craves the support of both. The turning point of the story is when Milly finds a secret garden, or at least such wonders were a secret to her. Trevor, a kind, giant of a man, introduces Milly to so many important lessons, from listening to garden self-sufficiency, homosexual acceptance to knowledge of clouds and space, to the magic of energies and tolerance. Each of these lessons could be heavy and hard, but with Rosie the kind horse and the blooming garden landscape we melt into the lessons as they cocoon around us. Along with Milly, we stretch our mind and bloom a little brighter ourselves.
This was both a powerful and a fun book to read. The message of healing comes clearly through – how helping each other also helps ourselves. Opening one’s mind to the magical energies around us is key to our happiness and this book brings this lesson to life through the grungy realism that so many children can relate to. I do recommend this book for public libraries and classroom libraries, but I would hope that the teacher or librarian could note that it could trigger some readers of abuses they have suffered. For most readers, it is a story of growth and healing. The author, Ms. Booth, has done a fabulous job teaching through storytelling.