2) A Gift of Magic

By: Lois Duncan

Date Finished: 02.15.13

by Lois Duncan

A dying grandmother leaves some less traditional gifts to her grandchildren — to Brendon, the gift of music, to Kirby the gift of dance, and to Nancy the gift of magic, or in this case, ESP.  Due to their father’s job, the family lives a largely nomadic life until the two girls are freshmen in high school, then their mother brings them to her hometown in Florida.  Nancy (the one with ESP) has the hardest time adjusting to a settled life and fears losing her sister to world of dance.

I didn’t realize until I read through an interview at the end, that I had read an updated version of the book.  The slang had been altered and it seems some significant character changes had been made.  Specifically, the two girls had originally been in seventh and eighth grade, but in this version became ninth grade twins.  The choice to make them twins seems natural, but the change of age was not particularly helpful.  Duncan’s intention was to make the girls older so the book would fit in with the young adult genre which was just emerging at the time.  Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn’t support a young adult audience these days.

As a girl who’s read tons of fantasy novels, I expected true magic, but got ESP instead.  I’m not sure I approve of using the term this way, but I do love how Nancy’s ability was readily accepted.  It had become a natural part of the family’s life style and while they exercised some caution around strangers, the main characters were surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing.   It was certainly refreshing the way this special ability was handled.

I also liked the attention given to the other characters, especially Kirby and Brendon.  Nancy is the clear main character, but it was nice to see the others through their own perspective.  Unfortunately, the two biggest events in the book happened to the lesser characters.  Nancy is a practiced worrier and experiences real fear, but no personal danger.  Also, both these events happen near the end of the book and are hardly addressed before it’s over, which is a bit of a let down.

Duncan does play with expectations in an interesting way throughout.  Nancy has wonderfully strong convictions due to her ability to see the future, but while the heart of what she says comes true, her interpretation is often wrong.  This doesn’t happen in a sitcom kind of way, rather in a genuine, growing up kind of way.

At the end of the day: For my younger self, perhaps

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