As a fan of the Young Wizards series, I'm sad to say this is by far the weakest entry in the series so far. I debated between one and two stars but thAs a fan of the Young Wizards series, I'm sad to say this is by far the weakest entry in the series so far. I debated between one and two stars but there were at least glimmers of a story in the book. It is true that the last entry was also fairly weak compared to earlier entries - early on things like the loss of a parent were touched upon and explored in a way that felt more real than anything this book gave us.
My issues were as follows:
1. The story itself was extremely weak. The endgame of Roshaun was at least hinted at a ton, but none of the stuff involving Penn was really explored beyond one aside about a passenger and an involved effort to make us hates his guts. I have to say at least the book succeeded in making us dislike a character whose only "redeeming" qualities might have been losing his mother whom he loved. I do not actually consider that enough of a quality to connect to him when we never hear Penn himself address the issue and are only told it exists by another party. We literally never see him not acting like a complete asshole until the end when he goes oh I guess I was a jerk!! And everyone else goes Yep you def were. The end sequence of the plot felt really handwavey since it was all so disjointed and things were mostly told rather than shown a lot.
2. There was simply not enough focus on the parts of the story that DID work. Mehrnaz was an interesting character in some ways but we never explored those and she felt extremely one dimensional and like a plot point more than a person because of it. She was there, it felt like, to be Muslim and make Dairine think. More attention should have been given to how she dealt with her feelings about her family and coming into her own. It ended up being Dairine forcing her through and doing the family confrontations and help FOR Merhrnaz. At no point did it really feel like Mehrnaz had her own agency or was able to really solve her own problems, for all that we were told this was her issue with her family - them not giving her leeway to be her own person.
3. There was a ton of focus on "haha but sex though". Teenagers think about sex, that's true, but this felt shoehorned in and awkward. Equally shoehorned and awkward was all the technology stuff that I gather Ms. Duane feels she has to add to be updated - I read this entry after reading straight through the millennium updates of the older books, and the technological references that got put in all feel kind of weird for the most part and along the lines of "AND NOW, LET ME PROVE I AM A MODERN TEEN *wink wink*" rather than "and now let me use a thing that is normal".
4. The characters rarely TALKED to one another even after acknowledging they didn't. Kit and Nita usually at least talk through things by the end of the book but this time they never really hit up certain issues we were forced to read about for the entire length of the thing.
5. There was a weird amount of just shoving stuff in to shove it in, actually. I'm glad Ms. Duane is being more inclusive about what types of characters she has, but it would be nice if her gay and asexual characters hadn't existed, it seems, literally to tell us hey I'm gay and I'm asexual and to allow Nita to go wow!!! And awkwardly think about it. Lissa and Matt exist basically to fill a quota and that sucks because they both seemed like they could have been interesting had they had literally any place in the story; the story, however, was weak and couldn't handle giving them much attention since it barely had anything of interest for the main characters to do. Which, again, sucks.
6. On the whole it just felt...anti-climactic and highlighted a lot of the weird trends in the series. It really pushed Dairine and Roshaun's friendship as Best Friends when we never got to see a ton of the build for that before he disappeared. They went from sniping at one another to a truce to like. Wow this guy disappeared and I love him, more or less. It's weird and I think maybe the issue here is a common ya author failure to really do romance? I'm not sure.
7. There was actually a section where a Kim Possible bff romance song was inserted for a slow dance and I felt like I was reading a bad fanfic. Honestly, a lot of the tropes for that were there. It was just...such a bad turn in the series. I'm disappointed....more