Title: The Mystwick School of Musicraft
Author: Jessica Khoury
Release Date: January 21st 2020
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Goodreads Rating: 4.02 (of 2135 ratings)
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Humor and heart shine in this middle grade fantasy about a girl who attends a boarding school to learn how to use music to create magic, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The School for Good and Evil series.
Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
I didn’t know this book existed, until it showed up on my doorstep one day. I really want to get back into middle grade, and I was excited for this one. Boarding schools have always been an intriguing thing for me, and add in magical music? I am in!
🎵 The world! Omg, it was so creative??? I love everything about the universe that Khoury created. It was lush, fantastical, and yes, very magical. I loved how much the author put into thought and effort in creating a comprehensive world and magic system. I felt like everything was explained about it, and I was never sitting there, confused on why things were happening, what was happening, etc. Things felt natural and easily understandable with nothing too complex. I just honestly felt like the magic was whirling around me with the tinkling of windchimes around me in a heavenly glow.
🎵 The writing was pretty easy to read, and it certainly helped with how long the book technically was. Despite it being a bigger amount of pages, it never really felt like it was a large, never-ending book. And when looking back at the read, it felt like a shorter read??? Which is true magic. I also have to applaud Khoury for making this book have that middle grade magic that I truly love and enjoy.
🎵 As for the characters, I never really connected with any of them. Our main heroine, Amelia, was certainly an okay narrator. Sure, I rooted for her, but I never really felt very strongly about her and felt the investment I needed. I could see some of her characterization and reasoning, but sometimes, I just couldn’t see her. The other characters felt a bit flat as well. Besides Amelia, I felt the only person that really felt real was her grandmother, whose page time was quite limited. The others felt pretty limited to me, and I couldn’t get a good grasp on them nor connect strongly with them.
🎵 Some of the material was also really heavy? Amelia is doing Musicraft due to her mom’s death; her dad leaves her (which really wasn’t explained too much); Amelia feels abandoned by her grandmother; there is some bullying; Amelia fails at, like, everything with a lot a lot a lot self doubt and depressing thoughts and the entire world turning against her; there is a dead person their age; and more. At times, the atmosphere is just quite dark, and like, sure, a middle grade can be this especially to help kids understand. However, it put me in a bit of a weird funk where I felt sad all of a sudden.
🎵 Genre-wise, I can’t quite tell you what this book was. I thought this was just a coming of age story with a mid-range fantasy element. Think Harry Potter yet in a more contemporary setting. You have a girl who is just trying to learn how to do Musicraft to honor her mother while in a Hogwarts-like boarding school. But then like 1/2 to 3/4 through, it became a ghost story??? Like, it was solely focused on ghosting, and while I do love a story that can cross genres and be unique, I just didn’t get the abrupt change and distinct difference in the genres.
🎵 Overall, this was a bit of an odd read, but it wasn’t too bad. The world building and amazing concept really wowed me over, and it definitely blurred a lot of the not so great things in my mind about it. Things were just okay???
rating: Belle because there was something there but it’s not going to last evermore
representation: Asian side characters (Indian and Japanese), side character in a wheelchair
content warnings: death of parent (described, not on page), bullying, death of child
read this if you: want to visit Hogwarts again but want a good dose of music
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!