Magic is a tricky thing. Especially when it comes from an ancient book of spells that jumps off a shelf into Olivia’s hands. Bad news for the popular girls in her new school who don’t like Olivia. But hey–now she can get the attention of her crush who’s more interested in comic book superheroes. And when she finds out her aunt is a witch, she imagines all her problems are solved. Unfortunately, not quite–what she conjures up is trouble. And the only one who can help her is an 800-year-old woman.
Most kids would find it pretty spectacular to be the daughter of not one but two world-famous actors. Olivia is not most kids and she certainly finds it far, far from spectacular being the child of two world-famous actors. What the world doesn’t know is how much her parents fight, how much they drink, and how much they ignore her in order to pursue their own interests. Yeah, being the kid of two world-famous actors isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
When Olivia’s parents both sign on for a film in Egypt, Olivia is meant to be left behind. Rather than going to some swanky boarding school, Olivia chooses to live in New York with her eccentric aunt, Tilda and her beyond-curious cat, Julius. From the moment Olivia arrives in New York, she suspects there is something quite different about Tilda. She warm, charming, kind, and people seem to always do what Tilda needs done. Additionally, Tilda seems to always know what Olivia is thinking and often answers questions that have only just popped into Olivia’s head. Finally, there is the school Tilda has enrolled Olivia in, the Knickerbacker.
The Knickerbocker is a weird school that is populated by the wealthiest kids from in and around New York. To say these kids feel and act entitled is a harsh understatement and Olivia immediately understands, she is an outcast. Olivia has no intention of telling everyone who her parents really are which means she is relegated to the lowest of low on the social ladder. Olivia couldn’t care less and immediately befriends Paul and Dulcimer, the schools two biggest outcasts. As Olivia gets to know her new friends and sees how they are all treated by the schools’ popular kids, Olivia looks for ways to improve their lives. Enter, aunt Tilda and her weird Wiccan ways.
Tilda and her most ancient and delightful friend, Eva begin to instruct Olivia in the ways of Wicca but, like most kids, Olivia is impatient. She and her friends need help and the popular kids, especially Madison need to pay for their bad behavior. Without her aunt’s knowledge or consent, Olivia begins to dabble in witchcraft. Though her intentions are pure (sort of!) Olivia just isn’t knowledgeable enough about the craft to really understand the harm she can and does cause. Spells have consequences and before she knows it, Olivia has caused a significant amount of damage and managed to lose the only two friends she had.
The Bottom Line: Be Careful What You Witch For is decent YA read that I can certainly see appealing to actual young adult readers. With the exception of her über-famous parents, Olivia is a pretty typical kid who just wants to help her friends and fit in at school. She is young, naïve, impatient, and ultimately, impulsive. Olivia’s actions have very real consequences and you can clearly see the pattern of escalation as the novel moves ever closer to the end. Though the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you can clearly see there is room for more story, perhaps a trilogy would do it. I didn’t jump up and down and rave about this read but I got through it easily and at under 200 pages, it isn’t a hardship to read.