September 28, 2006


Bras & Broomsticks; Frogs & French Kisses. By Sarah Mlynowski. Delacorte Press. $8.95 (Bras); $15.95 (Frogs).

     If you’re going to capture the next generation of chick-lit readers, it makes sense to get ‘em while they’re young.  Sarah Mlynowski has some particularly charming ways to do so in Bras & Broomsticks, which is now available in paperback, and its newly issued sequel, Frogs & French Kisses.

     The stories take a typical teenage mixture of broken families with dating or remarried parents, school angst, boyfriend worries, clumsiness and assorted other mortifications, and add a dose of magic.  Mlynowski’s gimmick – a particularly clever one – is that the magic does not belong to the narrator, 14-year-old Rachel, but to her younger sister, 12-year-old Miri.  The inherited supernatural powers that have made Miri an honest-to-goodness witch have apparently bypassed Rachel entirely, giving the typical sibling rivalry of books like these a new dimension.  In Bras & Broomsticks, Rachel tries to come to terms with her totally unfair set of circumstances (added to all the usual completely unfair sets of teenage troubles), and then tries to turn Miri’s budding abilities to Rachel’s own advantage.  Her wants are few and typical: learn to dance better, get her best friend back, get together with a cute guy, and – oh yes – stop her father from remarrying.  Rachel really wants her parents together again, and is irritated that her mother, who can do magic, won’t “unless it’s absolutely necessary.”  Rachel rhetorically asks, “You’d think saving her marriage to my dad would have been absolutely necessary, wouldn’t you?”  But of course, neither of Rachel’s parents sees things that way – and Miri is more worried about stuff like saving animals than helping Rachel.  None of Rachel’s schemes really works out, including her attempt to prevent her father from marrying STB (short for STBSM, “Soon To Be Step-Monster”).  In fact, magic causes more problems than it solves, and Rachel’s mom ends up having to use some to undo the messes.  And yet everything works out very well in the end…

     …setting up the scene for Frogs & French Kisses, in which STB – whose real name is Jennifer – turns out not to be so bad after all, but Rachel’s mom (now the Crazy Dating Mom) has forgotten her admonitions about magic and is overusing it, and Miri is determined to use her powers to save the entire world (one piece or animal at a time), and Rachel has gotten the love spell she wanted but has had it all go wrong, and so on and so forth.  Here we learn the fine points of “one-broomer” spells and up, and of such concepts as “selfsummie.”  Miri tells Rachel, “Selfsummie is when you’re trying to trick yourself with an emotion spell.  And it won’t work unless the spell is at least a four-broomer.”  Rachel has to decide whether she wants an out-of-love spell to counter the in-love spell that misfired, and Rachel and friends have to hold an auction to raise prom money because they had to spend the previously raised funds to repair things after some cows messed up the school (another magical misfire), and everything is a total disaster until Rachel finally figures out what to do to save the day – and her friends’ good time.  And then Rachel makes a surprising discovery….

     …setting up the scene for Spells & Sleeping Bags, which is due out next year.  There’s not the slightest hint of anything deep or meaningful in any of this, but if you’re looking for far more fun than typical teen-troubles novels offer, conjure up this pair of books.

No comments:

Post a Comment