The Secret Science of Magic – Melissa Keil – Hardie Grant Egmont – Published 1 April 2017





Sophia is smart, like genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius?

In life and love, timing is everything.

My thoughts

I have come to really love Melissa Keil’s writing and I was eagerly awaiting the release of this, her latest title. The Secret Science of Magic was one part wonderful, one part heartwarming, and totally teenagery (yes, that’s a word).

Sophia is a genius. She excels at maths and calculations, but struggles with social situations. Without her friend Elsie, she would be isolated. Joshua sees Sophia. For years he has longed to connect with her, really get to know her rather than observing from afar. But he knows she deserves more than a guy who is only good at magic tricks and doesn’t have a plan for his life. But as Joshua will tell you, timing is everything, and, maybe, it is the right time for Sophia and Joshua to finally connect.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I especially loved the characters. Sophia is awesome. She is incredibly smart when it comes to maths, but she is also terribly unsure about everything else, from reading facial expressions to understand others’ emotions. She knows she is different from the people around her, she longs to understand how to fit in better, and she really struggles with the feeling that different equals bad. Also, her favourite Doctor Who is Matt Smith, so clearly we are soul mates. Joshua is also an excellent character. A magician, he is constantly fidgeting or shuffling cards. He cares about Sophia but has a lot to learn about his role in her life and the role he should play in his own life. I loved his journey of discovery, I loved his friends, and I loved the way he loved Sophia.

I think the messages conveyed in this book are so important. Sophia has a range of challenges to face, particularly regarding social interactions and her own thoughts about them. She is never diagnosed, and while it might seem simple to throw a label on her, I think it is brilliant that this never happens. Sophia is dealing with her feelings and day-to-day interactions. A label might have made it easier for her to understand what was going on or maybe it would have created a whole range of new problems, either way, that would have been an entirely different story.

There were a few things about this book that didn’t appeal to me, particularly the endless crude humour and use of scatalogical and anatomical terms. The male anatomy was named 36 times (both anatomical and slang terms). I’d just like to point out that any female equivalents were only referenced 5 times. Although, I have to say this is probably realistic given how many particular drawings I have removed from textbooks, walls and tables. Teenagers. Sigh. Sorry, moving on.

Overall, The Secret Science of Magic is a charming book. Wonderfully Australian, yet relevant for readers around the world, as two teenagers connect, confront the realities of their lives, and maybe even take a chance on falling in love.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Magic, romance, mathematics, social anxiety, relationships, mental health, friendship, university, high school, coming of age, magic tricks.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Sexual references, innuendo and references to mast********. Frequent coarse, crude language, sh** (32),  arse (29), wang (4), balls (20),  di** (6).

Published:  1 April 2017 by Hardie Grant Egmont

Format: Paperback, ebook. 328 pages.

ISBN: 9781760127763

Find it on Goodreads