moonstoneMoonstone (Unbidden Magic #1) by Marilee Brothers
Release Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Source: NetGalley
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

A sickly mom. A tiny house trailer. High school bullies and snarky drama queens. Bad-guy dudes with charming smiles. Allie has problems. And then there’s that whole thing about fulfilling a magical prophecy and saving the world from evil. Geez. Welcome to the sad, funny, sometimes-scary world of fifteen-year-old Allie Emerson, who’s struggling to keep her and her mom’s act together in the small-town world of Peacock Flats, Washington. An electrical zap from a TV antenna sets off Allie’s weird psychic powers. The next thing she knows she’s being visited by a hippy-dippy guardian angel, and then her mysterious neighbor, the town “witch,” gives her an incredible moonstone pendant that has powers only a good-hearted “Star Seeker” is meant to command. “Who, me?” is Allie’s first reaction. But as sinister events begin to unfold, Allie realizes she’s got a destiny to live up to. If she can just survive everyday life, in the meantime.

So this one is the whole series put together, offered by NetGalley. I’ll be reviewing them one at a time, just so I can keep to my review schedule. So Allie is poor and lives with her mother (who Allie calls Faye, which is an anvil if I ever saw one) in a trailer park. Her “spirit guide” shows up smoking a joint. One of her mother’s friends is a Romany gypsy. Which is all very convenient for a girl about to discover her powers. And you know what else? Allie’s voice is very much like Rose’s from the Ilona Andrews series, The Edge. I didn’t particularly like the first book in that series, but I wanted to give Allie a chance. She’s really resistant to her power at first, like nearly all the rest of paranormal YA protags, but she tells her mother about it, and Faye believes her! I was so happy when that happened. I thought, maybe this won’t be another Case of the Missing Parents after all. But then Allie tries to return her magic pendant and I am annoyed, because, Allie, you live in a trailer with a mom who doesn’t get out of bed. You find out you have magic and you want things to remain the same? No. No, Allie, take the pendant and do something other than live in a trailer your whole life! Am I the only one who would have accepted my powers wholesale if this had been me? Anyone?

These things always end the same way. You can’t give the magic back, and neither can Allie. And around this point, I really started liking what I was reading. After the initial resistance (and that is something that always bugs me, no matter the heroine), Allie becomes kind of awesome. She saves her bully from a gang, she goes to confront her father, and learns she has siblings. The weird “I like my step-cousin” thing is resolved. A lot is happening to her all at once. Her aunt is trying to get Faye and Allie kicked off the aunt’s land. CPS comes calling on Allie’s birthday. Allie’s mentor, Kizzy, is attacked and left for dead. Magic is never clean, and I was super intrigued by the mystery of Allie’s father and the mystery of her moonstone. Allie doesn’t know everything, so I’m hoping to see more Trilby. I must know more about this prophecy! And the unexpected, unconventional romance was pretty cool.

There’s really less mystery, more intrigue in this one. We know the names of the bad guys and we (mostly) know their motives. It’s how to stop them that’s tough, and that goes in hand with Allie learning about her new powers. Allie spends a lot of time afraid of her ability, even after she’s accepted that she has one. It’s interesting to get to know more about the prophecy, but I found myself wishing Allie’s friends were a little more fleshed out. I’d like to know more about Mercedes and Manny and more about Trilby too. I really liked getting to know Junior, though I ended up having suspicions of my own about him.

This one has some problems with racial sensitivity and stereotypes, which is a hard thing to get over. I managed to, because I liked Allie and I think it’s meant to be harmless, even if it’s less harmless than it seems. Allie is the only one who’s really developed, character-wise, and the mythology is kind of thin. I’m hoping the next few books clear up those issues. Other than that, I liked this one a lot! Urban fantasy for teenagers, basically. The romance is so low-key as to almost be nonexistent, but it’s fun too. Can’t wait for the next one!