Review: The Lost Coast - Amy Rose Capetta
Genre: YA, Magical Realism, LGBTQ+ Published: Candlewick Press, May 2019
My Rating: 2.5 stars Many thanks to Candlewick Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“Spellbooks tell you how people have done magic in the past” June explains. “they’re pre-made. Magic is like love. You see how other people do it, you have the stories and instructions they leave behind, but then you have to out how you do it.”
Imagine equal portions The Raven Boys and Spellbook of the Lost and Found and sprinkle in a little dash of The Craft and a hint of The Devouring Gray. The result should be something resembling The Lost Coast.
We follow Danny, a girl who abruptly moves with her mother to Tempest, California, seemingly without reason. She however, soon discovers that nothing is as coincidental as it seems when she meets The Grays: 4 queer witches that offer her friendship like she’s never had before, but also need her help. Strange things have been happening in the monumental forests surrounding them, including. After their former fifth member Imogen went missing in the woods, The Grays want answers, and Danny seems to be the only one with the skills needed to provide them.
Between Californian red woods, magical realism and a witchy friend group, I had high hopes for this novel and was over the moon to receive an advanced copy from the publisher. Whilst it lived up to my expectations in some regards, I was quite disappointed in others, leaving me with mixed feelings in the end.
To start off with the good: The Lost Coast largely delivers what it says on the tin. It’s a story of a close-knit, diverse group of queer witches that find friendship and acceptance among each other. If you want to get your diversity kick on; this is the place for you, as diversity seems to have been the first thing on the author’s mind when writing this. Both racial-, sexual- and bodily minorities are represented and you can tell the authors passion for the subject from her perspective as a queer woman herself. I also loved the setting: the foggy and majestic Californian red woods were a perfect choice to serve as the background of a witchy story. Amy Rose Capetta does a beautiful job of bringing the ancient trees, the vibrant foliage and the earthy forest air to life with her writing style that strikes the right balance between lush and readable. I had never read anything by the author, but I’d definitely count the writing style among the pleasant surprises this book offered. My only problem with the writing was that the author sometimes “overtells” things, especially when it comes to points she’s clearly passionate about. Her point will be crystal clear to the reader by the scenes she has just shown us, but she at times can’t resist to tell us the exact same thing literally as well. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of faith in the reader, or in her own ability to bring something across, but it’s unnecessary in my opinion. I felt this especially when the author talked about the characters sexuality, and the acceptance of diversity. That repetition, combined with the clear (and admirable) passion of the author, does come at the risk of almost lecturing the reader on the topic of diversity. Although I don’t think it crossed that line, it was close at times.
That also brings me to my next disappointment: the characters themselves. Because the author had such a large focus on their diversity, I feel like some of the development of the rest of their character arcs got lost along the way. It’s something I notice more and more in the last year or two since the surge in popularity of LGBTQ+ books, especially in YA. I have a post on my website all about this coming up, so I won’t go into detail on it here. The short summary is: I’m all for diversity, but even more for equality. A sexuality is not a substitute for a developed personality, and an underdeveloped gay character is still an underdeveloped character, no matter the best intentions by the author. The framework for a great cast of characters was there: I’d just like to see a little more depth and development in them. Finally, I don’t feel the plot was as exciting or unexpected as I was hoping for, mostly due to some pacing issues. I’d have liked the beginning to be a little slower, to ease us into the different POV’s, whereas the middle part could have used a little more action.
In the end, I think this is a book that will find a large and loving audience out there, even though it wasn’t a favorite for me. If you like books that focus on LGBTQ+ friendships, or any of the books I mentioned at the top of my review, ánd you enjoy those alternative witchy vibes: this one might be for you!
Find this book on Goodreads