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The Zigzag Effect

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Sage is delighted to land a holiday job with a magician. It will earn her the money she needs for the photography course she's coveted since she first picked up a camera - and working for the The Great Armand should be interesting, right? Plus there's a cute stagehand named Herb, who could make it even more interesting.

But one night Sage, Herb and the magician's assistant Bianca stay late at the theatre, and a wand gets broken... on the stage. Bianca is horrified, convinced they've brought a curse upon themselves. Then Armand is nowhere to be found - and Sage and Herb are mysteriously locked in the storeroom. Together. Overnight.

Sage must figure out who to trust, who's hiding secrets, what's real and what's just clever trickery. Because when a person truly disappears, it is likely that there are more sinister elements at work than magic...

360 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2013

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About the author

Lili Wilkinson

27 books278 followers
Lili Wilkinson is the award-winning author of eighteen books for young people, including The Erasure Initiative and After the Lights Go Out. Lili has a PhD from the University of Melbourne, and is a passionate advocate for YA and the young people who read it, establishing the Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. Her latest book is A Hunger of Thorns.

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5 stars
66 (26%)
4 stars
85 (33%)
3 stars
75 (29%)
2 stars
14 (5%)
1 star
11 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
589 reviews1,029 followers
July 8, 2013
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

'"Magicians don't do real magic. We do effects. Using all sorts if misdirection and sleigh of hand. But there is no real magic."'

I guess this is one of those books that smack bang in the face tell me I am a whimp. The Zigzag Effect is by no means creepy or horrifically scary. Yet still, late at night I could not read any further until the next day due to my sudden wash of hyperventilation. Practically going There's a ghost in my house. It's a magician ghost. AHHH...! My house is haunted. WHA. What was that. *hears light creak in the floorboards* I'll just stop there- you get the point, horror is not my thing and quite frankly, anything to do with ghosts. No matter how much I feel courageous and rave a horror novel occasionally, I believe I've finally come to the conclusion that I won't be ever ever ever (starts singing Taylor Swift) reading ghostly horror novels for a long time. Even though this technically wasn't meant to be scary. Or horror. (Yeah, just laugh at me, y'all. Thanks)

On whole, The Zigzag Effect was a boisterous novel filled with a sweet but inconsistent romance, average characters and predicable culprit at the end. But hear me out, this did not necessarily mean I did not like this novel, I enjoyed this in the essence that Wilkinson could create a fantastic family connection and suspense that dragged through full of light eerie and mystery. The research was also a remarkable part which helped in creating an intricate plot line.

Just moving from Queensland to Melbourne, Sage doesn't feel at home. Unsettled, short on money and lonely, she begins a summer job at the theatre for Armand the Magician. After all, not only will it be some fun, but also will pay the tuition fees for photography classes- all Sage has ever wished for. Yet when one night when Sage and the cute backstage helper, Herb get stuck in a room together, something is up. Could it possibly be the ghost of a past dead magician haunting the theatre and every move Sage makes? A thoroughly magically humorous novel.

The characters on average, were enjoyable. However, there were character flaws from Sage and Herb that I couldn't help but pick up on. Both were easily provoked and awfully sensitive. Sage, after barely hearing a conversation between her parents concludes immediately that her parents were getting a divorce. Who does that? Moreover, Herb jumps onto the tiniest statements and creates a cacophony clearly irrelevant and eye roll worth. He also happens to be arrogant. On the other hand, I appreciated the thought and clear mindedness our protagonist and antagonist held as they attempted to unravel the mystery.

Another aspect that I was so-so on was the romance. Call me picky but it had angst, a little domination and egotistical touch to it. While the plot was fantastic and some chemistry scenes here were awkwardly adorable, lowering the attention here would've been much better.

Whilst the small qualms in The Zigzag Effect were present, the research, magic and family relationships were cogent. Recommended to people who love Lili Wilkinson's works.
Profile Image for Maggie.
432 reviews429 followers
September 25, 2013
Things you can expect from a Lili Wilkinson book: intelligence, humor, awkwardness, and HIJINKS. The Zigzag Effect is no exception. There are photographs that lie, theater ghosts and curses, and the best worst first date since Gracie Faltrain stuck her tongue in Martin Knight's ear. Oh, there's also a Magician's League.

Basically, Lili Wilkinson delivers the goods again.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
778 reviews518 followers
January 22, 2016
"So? She's smart and she knows about floorboards. I bet she knows about computers, too."
My last update around the 38% mark had been "PLEASE remind me never to read a Lili Wilkinson again. It's a very subjective thing, but consistent: I hate all the guy characters, do not connect to the girl ones and get irritated by the mystery/stetting/story/world/whatever. I am not sure whether I will finish the strange love story/wacky job/creepy people story or not." What has changed since then is: I am now pretty sure that I will not venture into the novel again.

Originally I started to read the book, because the latest Goodreads Young Adult Book Club Challenge demands that the participants read a YA book about a character who has a "fun job". Well, not everybody can become a librarian. Therefore magician's assistant sounded rather special and interesting to me, although Wilkinson's taxidermy intern in "A Pocketful of Eyes" also turned out to be more or less forgettable in spite of all her sleuthing activities among the fur, the dusty glass beads and the glamorous depths of the museum she worked at.

Sage's job at Armand's, the teen-boob-addicted, introverted, second-class traveling magician, consists of cleaning the theater, out-traying the bills and setting up a homepage with a ticket-booking-system. There is some unease concerning her family, whose formerly plush finances - along with her parents' relationship - seem to have suffered a drop so Sage has to earn money to pay for her coveted photography course. Since she is new in town and school hasn't started yet for her, she is grateful for stage hand Herb's - an indiscernible, ambitious, oily creep/jerk/mr-hansom, who is obviously not to be trusted, but counts as a fitting love interest for low-expectations-Sage anyway - flirty advances and braggery or the rare camaraderie of otherworldly beautiful, sad, superstitious and obviously physically abused (by whom seems to be one of the questions) assistant-in-sequins Bianca, who Herb at least verbally treats like dirt.

That means Sage is more or less an underage underpaid secretary, whose Photoshop skills magically make her competent in all fields of computer and accountancy tasks, too. And it means Sage might have an eye for camera-worthy beauty, but, like all other Wilkinson-heroines I've met, has huge problems with common sense and character judgement.

But the most important thing is that Wilkinson cannot make me care or even rage about that deficiency. There is no magic at all in setting, story or social interaction. So. PLEASE nudge me hard and noticeably the next time I put one of her seemingly interesting titles on my wishlist. Will you? Thanks!
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,456 reviews84 followers
March 18, 2014
I will say this author has an excellent imagination, a great understanding of characters, a quirky sense of humor, and obviously researches and enjoys the myriad of subjects her characters pursue. I've read two of her books now, and I can't imagine two more unique and different novels. Somehow she thinks of awesome settings for her stories; how many YA novels get haunted theatre holiday job story lines? Then there's the characters! There's no stereotypes here. There's flaws, glorious flaws! Herb is a dick, and I like him anyway. He's a complete know it, blurting out stories about magic and incorporating them into his routine. He is infuriating! In fact he reminds me of my own boyfriend. Long speeches designed to make you feel stupid, often saying thoughtless things he immediately apologizes for? Yeah, Bowie all over.

Then there's the main character, Sage. A teenager who weeps into washing up in disappointment instead of throwing a tantrum. Who looks after her brother without complaint, endures all the changes in her life and suffers in silence rather than stress her parents out more. Yeah, I like this girl. She's kind without being sappy, a fresh voice in a sea of stupid.

Finally, there are Harry Potter references. What more do you want?
Profile Image for Emily Wrayburn.
Author 5 books41 followers
February 21, 2019
Review originally published on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 22 February 2019:

Actual rating: 3.5*

I knew I had to read this book as soon as I learned that it was about a girl getting a summer job with a magic show. I wanted to be a magician when I was a kid, and while I learned a few card tricks that I’ve now forgotten, I still have a soft spot for all things magic.

I thought the main character, Sage, was really well-written. She’s homesick and sad, and trying to make the best of it. She’s also really capable, and pulls the magic show into the twenty-first century.

At first, I really loved Herb, the backstage assistant and total magic nerd. I enjoyed learning about magic as he excitedly taught things to Sage. A couple of times I went and googled things to learn more. But he did say a few things that deserved a smack on the upside of the head (like tarot and crystals being “women’s magic”) and while Sage calls him out on it, I never really got the sense that he would stop. He also complained about her stage makeup when she is replacing the usual assistant, but there was no mention of the fact that male performers also wear makeup onstage. Look, Herb is not the worst YA love interest, by far, but he did still bother me a bit.

I think Bianca was my favourite character. She’s the superstitious magician’s assistant and it is through her character that the book examines the way the magic industry is stuck in a sexist past that a lot of other forms of entertainment are at least trying to move away from. Bianca has a lot of baggage and to be honest, there were times I wished she was the main character, because she seemed a bit more interesting than the other two.

It did weird me out a little that the theatre had no staff of its own, and that the entire thing seemed to be run by three people closely involved with the show, but not the theatre. Where was theatre management? Where was the tech crew? To be fair, it’s only because I do theatre in my spare time that any of this stood out to me. I’m sure it wouldn’t bother a reader who doesn’t do a musical every year.

I thought the ending was satisfying but I wondered whether others might think it ended with the kidnapper/saboteur not getting their comeuppance. I guess YMMV on that one. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. It definitely picked up a lot in the secocnd half after a bit of a slow start.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.
Profile Image for Yue.
2,205 reviews30 followers
November 22, 2019
Not bad, the characters are memorable. Except maybe Sage, the MC... she was too young for my taste. She is 17 but I keep picturing a 14yo girl, no idea why. I guess with all her blushing and thinking about Herb and having a crush and the way she was reacting felt too young for me. And I Herb was ok, but not really a MLI material... he was also way to childish and sensitive. But I liked Bianca and Zacky and Armand and even Jason Jones, I could picture them vividly.

Now, for the story, it wasn't bad. I guess I was expecting something else.. more magical -not more "magic" since there is enough- and more humor -there isn't any-. The best thing about this book is the setting: circus and Melbourne. As for the rest, mystery is MEH, romance is double-MEH.

What I really had a problem with were the dialogues, the conversations. Each one of them talked like straight out of an encyclopedia... it didn't feel real. Herb, explaining the secrets behind the magic tricks, or telling about this magician or that magician... Yoshi Lear talking about photography, Bianca talking about ghosts; Sage talking about women's rights... it just didn't feel like real people discussing this subjects. All what they were saying was interesting, but it just didn't feel like a YA book.. more like an essay about these specific subjects.

I am disappointed with the ending.
Profile Image for Khanak Sharma.
2 reviews
August 16, 2018
The plot is AMAZING. I honestly thought it would be quite a common story, guess I was wrong! I loved the way how the book ended. If you like a little bit of mystery and romance, this book is recommended! 😊❤
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews707 followers
July 2, 2013
zigzag effect. geek-cool. cool geek? what’s the right term here? of wilkinson’s stories i have read, there are offbeat, self aware, funny-odd types who stand out even when (especially when) they don’t want to. one a taxidermist in the making, another a girl forcing herself in a mold she's unsure of... and now this, magicians, magician wanna be's, their assistants and noobs. but it’s the last in that line up who sticks out the most in her knowing who she is and what she wants. that she's so smart and directed is not so new; it's that she could be such a dumb smart girl is what surprised and frustrated but goaded me on nonetheless.

there's a newness that she feels and that we do too. her feeling out of place but being gung ho about it even so, paints her strong... yet all those moments of her sticking her foot in it makes her more real too (because perfect girl isn't so perfect after all, yeah?)

then there’s the rest. token love interest. a bff in the making. and creepy mysterious goings on all made zigzag for a different type of read... ‘till it wasn't. you see she's just new girl and one coincidence then another and she's shiny new toy for all of them. why do they like her again? why does she like him again? that set up's pretty basic.

‘the different’ is where things went. sure, one too many bit of trivia had me impatient. all the ‘did you know’s ‘ from one or another had feeling impatient as it got in the way of the story. but eventually all the did you know’s actually did tie in with the rest of it. so that the story went from cool geek to been there done that then finally to this odd mystery… but what was the mystery anyway? piecing it together was a kick especially because as that was happening, she was piecing her new life together. so two things were going on: she’s new girl and going with the flow… while she’s new girl who finds herself i a place unexpected.

(my favorite bit has to be the little brother though.)
Profile Image for Readingee.
168 reviews
January 9, 2014
I really, really, really liked this book!

I didn't give this book five stars just because it was pretty predictable, within about the first 30 pages or so, I knew what would happen. But nonetheless I still enjoyed the book. There were quite a few things that I really liked about this. The first one had to be the constant, however discreet references to the "Zig-Zag Effect" throughout the book. It really made it feel like the title had a purpose. The other thing I really liked was the name of the chapters, and the fact that it was accompanied with little descriptions of the word, and then relating it back to the entirety of the chapter.

I thoroughly enjoyed following the life of Sage, I found that really nice. Although, of course once Herb was introduced into the story, I was certain the pair would begin something together... Bianca however, I sort of saw what she did coming however when I found out about her towards the end - it shocked me more than expected!

Overall, this book was really enjoyable, and one I would highly recommend to others. The suspense however does kill you as you near the end!

Lili Wilkinson really has a thing for writing fun and light novels that are interesting and easy to get through! She is a really well rounded author indeed!
Profile Image for Sass.
364 reviews30 followers
April 27, 2013
I loved Lili Wilkinson's 'A Pocketful of Eyes', a quirky, funny detective story set in a natural history museum, but I was disappointed in the followup, 'Loveshy'. 'The Zigzag Effect' is, at least in my opinion, a return to form, and thank goodness for that.

The Zigzag Effect stars Sage, our lovely heroine, who has stumbled into a summer job working for b-grade magician The Great Armand. Along with the glamorous magician's assistant Bianca and the oddball (but attractive) stagehand Herb, Sage is trying to find a way to keep the struggling magic show afloat when The Great Armand disappears.

An addictive combination of mystery, hilarity and trapped-in-a-cupboard making out, The Zigzag Effect is what you would get if you put The Prestige, Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars in a blender and set it to puree.
Profile Image for georgia .
140 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2014
Fairly basic characters, but I really liked the layering that Lili Wilkinson made within Herb and Bianca. Sage was an okay protagonist, and at times I did feel like I was beginning to really understand her, but I felt that there wasn't enough character development in her story for me to really connect with.

The story over all however, is what makes me give this book 4 stars. The theatre setting and and the fact that you get an insight into this stage magic industry was very fascinating and frankly just really cool. The magic tricks and effects are well described and received, and the "magic" is a major part of the story. I liked seeing the wonders of the industry through Sage's eyes and learning with the character.

All together 4 stars. This is mostly a contemporary, but with a tiny twist of paranormal and highly recommended for a light weekend read :)
Profile Image for Claire.
2,347 reviews29 followers
June 12, 2013
I picked this book up for 2 reasons... 1. I have read Pink and enjoyed it. 2. It has a bunny on the cover. It is fairly easy to read and isn't too long plus it is engaging enough to keep the pages turning. I just didn't really like Sage, she doesn't seem sure as to what she believes in but then she is very vocal about women's rights. Herb was a bit abrasive as well. I have to admit though, that this is one of the few times that I worked out who was behind it all before the book told me. I love that the rabbit is called Warren!

2.5 stars - It's good but I probably wouldn't read it again.
Profile Image for Paula.
31 reviews
May 27, 2014
This story was so intriguing, I loved how it was about magic and how magic is all illusion or trickery! The plot was mysterious and captivating, I found I got to be a detective and solved the mystery half way through the book.
Wikinson's characters are likable and charming, I loved the chemistry between Sage and Herb. This story is thrilling if you like teenage detectives, I found it very Nancy Drew like but the magic was just brilliant and I wasn't about to let that get me down by the ending as I feel it was a blissful way to end the story but left Wilkinson with an opportunity to write more about Sage in the future if she so wishes to!
Profile Image for Miffy.
397 reviews22 followers
April 8, 2013
This is a terrific mystery story, which includes moving interstate, Vietnamese food, rabbits, and a vanishing magician. There is also romance, mixed messages, deception and worry. It is a lot of fun, while being just a little bit scary as well.
Sage (photographer, state-mover and theatre assistant) is a delightful protagonist, and Herb (geddit?!) (magic effects creator) is a perfect foil. The mystery is convincing and well-constructed, and is satisfactorily resolved. There is a suitable amount of teenage romantic angst, and some clever and amusing dialogue between Sage and Herb. Recommended.
Profile Image for Mel.
665 reviews7 followers
May 4, 2013
Another quirky tale from Lili Wilkinson. Sage, Zacky and Herb are lovely characters, endearing and eccentric in their own ways. There is a lot of intrigue, humour and magic within the pages and I must admit that the ghostly parts were scary enough to stop reading one night as I scared myself! The lovely city of Melbourne is realised well too, and the historical context of magic and photography was a lovely and well researched addition!
Profile Image for Ellie.
904 reviews62 followers
May 19, 2014
A very interesting book.

The funny thing is, I would never have picked it if I hadn't met the author!
She did a presentation at a festival I went to, and she was such a brilliant speaker that I just had to read some of her books.

I loved the way each chapter heading was a different trick, it added an intriguing depth to the plot.

It's very evident that she did a lot of research; all of the magic in it was really cleverly and interestingly explained.
Profile Image for Trisha.
1,966 reviews104 followers
August 16, 2017
Clever book with another of Lili's awesome feisty heroines. All the magic stuff was unusual and allowed the narrative to develop with both humour and suspense.

I figured out what was going half way through and then was cranky when Sage did not. Or did she?

Anyhoo, all the characters are excellent, particularly Zacky and Herb.

Profile Image for Laura.
252 reviews21 followers
April 27, 2015
Such an enjoyable book. Some parts I just wanted to yell at the characters "JUST CALL HIM!!!! TALK TO EACH OTHER!!! SORT OUT YOUR PROBLEMS!!!" b/c fucking misunderstandings, but it all got resolved nicely in the end.
10/10 do recommend.
86 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2014
A bit of mystery, a bit of romance. And I got to learn about magic and photography, so I could follow peole around at home saying "hey did you know...?". Love everything Lili writes. There are always a few surprises along the way, and REAL characters. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Denise.
252 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2015
Pink was better. And all that whinging about it being cold down here. Suck it up! And of course it was Bianca, patently obvious. Still, quite readable and I liked the information re magicians, etc. (Did Lili have access to the Alma Collection in that locked cage in the basement of the SLV?)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
106 reviews
February 3, 2016
This starts off a little bit flat but the plot gains its own momentum once the mystery kicks in and the main character becomes more and more involved in the magic show. In the ned, I really enkoyed this.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,765 reviews11 followers
May 28, 2013
The only thing magical about this book was the Harry Potter references.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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