Review: Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley
Genre: Fantasy, YA Published: HarperCollins, April 2015 My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
This book is definitely a polarizing read; you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I am on the "love-it-side" of the spectrum. I don't know how to explain this book to you in a way that would do it justice, but i spoke to me in a way that only so many books do. Minor spoiler-alert for some of the narrative and writingstyle.
The highlights; - Originality. This is the biggest plus about this book for me. Magonia is a story you have never read before. It is not "just another dystopian", "just another chosen-one fantasy", or even "just another retelling". I can only read so many new interpretations of the same old fairytales and myths, but Maria Dahvana Headley choose a myth that I have never heard before to base her story on, and I love it. I even read up on the myths and folktales she based this on, and I am telling you; she did a phenomenal job. With a million books out there, writing something completely unique is a true accomplishment, and Maria Dahvana Headely pulled it off perfectly
- Aza. I loved her voice. She is cynical, snarky, vulnerable and overall just REAL. I know many people criticize her for being ungrateful, but the girl is literally choking on air all the time. She is 16 and dying; give her a break. I loved how she is not a "heroin" like many other protagonists from "sicklit", in the sense that she is not stoically, battling her illness and dying bravely while quoting famous philosophers (*cough* Hazel). I am sorry to burst your bubble, but this is not how most sick teenagers are; trust me I have been one. Aza felt real to me; she responds to her situation in ways that make sense and I loved seeing the story from here side.
- The meaning. Now this is debatable and that is what I love about it. You can ask yourself "what really happened here". Is she really boarding a sky-sailing ship, or is all of this a hallucination brought on by her oxygen-deprived brain while she is dying. There is no clear answer, so the readers can decide for themselves. Personally I loved how it all COULD be a hallucination and I choose to believe it is, especially because of the parallels that were drawn between her illness and the world of Magonia. Her brain is using clues from a subject she spend researching in her last weeks, to make sense of the complete non-sense of her body shutting down. This is often what does happen in near-death hallucinations. The bird scratching her lung, being the actual crackling of her lungs as they slowly shut down. Her incorporating people from the actual world (like the redheaded ambulance driver) in Magonia. Even the Magonians (including herself) having blue skin; literally cyanosis. Honestly; I do not know if you are supposed to interpret it this way, but that is the beauty of art. Everybody finds an explanation to make it meaningful to them and this is what makes me love it.
The downsides - The writing style (at times) I had mixed feelings about the writing style; at times I loved it. For example I flew through it and I loved the way Aza’s voice was written. Personally though I am not a fan of the sort of “experimental poetry-style layout of some of the writing. Writing some words in weird configurations to make them more meaningful like H O M E O M M O E M O H (actual example from the book) I am sorry; this is just not my thing, and I feel like the book could have done without. It is not present everywhere though, and if you are like me and are not a fan, you can easily sort of read around it.
- The ending Like I said; I loved how you could interpret this book in different ways. In a way, this continued into the ending; not everything is explained (is it real or not?) but the book does hint towards one explanation. Personally I would have liked if she had gone more towards one end of the spectrum; either leaving it all up to the reader, or explaining everything better. Not going halfway like she did. I see how there would be people who have a problem with either one of these, but for me; I would have liked to interpret a little more for myself.
For the same reason I will NOT be picking up the sequel. I feel one of the main appeals for this story was the mystery and a sequel will most likely ruin that for me. Also, if felt this story is complete the way it was and did not need a sequel. Reading the sequel will probably only make me love the first book less.
Add this book on Goodreads