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Of the Bauble by Debbie McGowan

 
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Of the Bauble by Debbie McGowan

Book Info

About the Author
Debbie McGowan is an author and publisher based in a semi-rural corner of Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven, realist fiction, celebrating life, love and relationships. A working class girl, she ‘ran away’ to London at seventeen, was homeless, unemployed and then homeless again, interspersed with animal rights activism (all legal, honest ;)) and volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At twenty-five, she went back to college to study social science—tough with two toddlers, but they had a ‘stay at home’ dad, so it worked itself out. These days, the toddlers are young women (much to their chagrin), and Debbie teaches undergraduate students, writes novels and runs an independent publishing company, occasionally grabbing an hour of sleep where she can. 
Publisher
Publication Date
December 15, 2016
Pages
136
Excerpt
By now, the bauble was only millimetres from my face, the heat so intense I could feel it burning the tip of my nose, but I was completely transfixed by the swirling blue inside the glass chamber, a tiny tornado spinning up from the spike, dispersing and scattering like exploding fireworks, before fluttering down and settling in a sapphire snowstorm, only to start over again. In the far-off distance, I was aware of Cara’s bedroom door opening and slamming shut, the creak of the rungs as she climbed the ladder…

I need to hide it.

Where the thought had come from, I did not know, but I was overwhelmed by the urge to keep this magnificent find to myself. I stared into the glass, trying to think where i could put it so no one would find it.

A face stared back at me.
When nineteen-year-old Kieran O’Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.
Box includes:
– a hapless but not altogether helpless student
– a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or…well, quite a few)
– a funky older sister
– the coolest mum in the world
– a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
– an insightful ex-girlfriend
– twinkle lights
– tinsel
– baubles

* Warning – may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it’s a book by Debbie McGowan – did you expect anything else?) *

Of the Bauble is a young adult, biromantic/non-binary fantasy romance.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

A bit of holiday magic
Overall 
 
5.0
I love good young adult literature, especially if the protagonist is LGBTQIA and it’s not full of drama centered on homophobia. More importantly, though, is whether or not I would recommend any given book to the young adults in my household. I took a chance and gave this one to my thirteen-year-old before I’d previewed it. My instinct paid off; I knew it the moment I heard him laughing from the other room. We both loved it.

Kieran is a delightful protagonist, and he’s entirely age-appropriate. Old enough to be mostly independent, he’s able to have his magical adventures unhindered. But he’s still young enough to be under the watchful (albeit tolerant) eye of his mother, requiring some creative explanations for his actions. This is a nice and atypical balance. Too often, adults are enemies in young adult literature. There’s a refreshingly realistic balance between Kieran’s decision-making ability and his need for some guidance.

Then there’s Jinn. They (gender-neutral pronouns used throughout) are also well done as a not-quite-human presence discovering things in the human world. Rather than the tired trope of human-has-to-guide-non-human, Jinn possesses vast knowledge and understanding—and Kieran needs their help as much as they require the same in return. Rather than the balance of power being skewed, the two of them are on equal footing with regard to how much they can do for each other.

I suppose it could be argued that because Jinn is a magical being, it places gender variance in the realm of mythical beings. However, I didn’t see it that way. While we do need realistic characters of non-binary genders, Jinn’s gender is actually a function of how Kieran sees them (to explain why would give spoilers). That puts gender variance firmly rooted in humanity and demonstrates people’s (especially young people’s) ability to understand the complexity.

Although this is listed as a romance, and there certainly is some of that, it doesn’t carry the entire plot. The love between Kieran and Jinn is sweet, developing slowly and organically over the course of their other adventures. It parallels Kieran’s self-discovery, but neither the romance nor Kieran’s identity are the focal point of the story.

Besides touching on gender and sexuality, there’s some good commentary about the world Jinn comes from and the relationship between the magical realm and the human one. Again, to describe it would be to give spoilers, and this is a story which relies heavily on the element of surprise. I’m still thinking about what it means with regard to the symbiosis of human cultures.

This is short enough to be read in an afternoon, but long enough to feel satisfying. According to my thirteen-year-old, he related to Kieran in many ways. He loved Junie, the rabbit, and the story has been a source of conversation (and quotes) since he finished. He says,

“The plot was incredible. It was amazing and had lovable characters that were constantly developing.”

For me, that’s the best reason to recommend the book: My teen, who rarely reads young adult novels because it’s hard to find ones he likes, enjoyed this. Good enough.

For delightful characters, a bit of holiday fun, and youth-centered commentary on gender, freedom, and relationships, this gets 5 stars.
AL
Top 10 Reviewer 25 reviews
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