When I saw Spells Trouble as a coming-soon book, the cover just drew me in. And the synopsis was very promising, with a lot of different elements I like in a novel… witchiness, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, emotional angstiness, family drama. But the reality was less than my expectations. For a lot of reasons.
#1. The emotion. It’s not a spoiler to say that their mother died at the beginning of the book. Most would consider this a time of mourning. Yet any real moment of grief seems to be glossed over, dismissed in ways that felt very superficial. And not just their own grief but that of their friend’s, too. It was just odd, the way emotional priority was given to other things.
#2. The use of queerness as a negative. Hunter is queer, and Mercy felt that some of her sister’s choices were made because of that, choices that she felt were wrong. It’s hard to discuss without spoilers, but this was a theme that was carried on through much of the book. That Hunter’s choices, one’s she supposedly made because of her queerness, were not only wrong but the sole reason for all that was happening. It was so prevalent that it was rather offensive at times.
#3. The magic. I love witchy books, but the magical world in this seemed bizarre. The girls are the latest in a long line of Goode witches charged with being Gatekeepers to the five underworlds. There is zero real explanation as how that came to be, and why the five portals are in Nowhere, Illinois, or why two white girls are gatekeeping for underworlds of entirely other cultures and parts of the world. Greek, Norse, Japanese, Egyptian, and Hindu underworlds… in Illinois?
#4. The YA sex. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to YA sex in novels, at least sex-positive YA. It happens. It’s reality. There’s no reason to make it taboo. But the sex topic here was cringey. The observation of one’s own mother’s breasts was weird. A mother making suppositions about the size of her daughter’s boyfriend’s member. A mother asking after her daughter’s clitoris, chatting about a family trait of multiple orgasms. It was just odd. And later, an explicit sex scene that felt very gratuitous.
All in all, I’m probably going to pass on the rest of the series.