#LoveOzYA #aww2019 Book Review: “The Zigzag Effect” by Lili Wilkinson

Title: the Zigzag Effect
Lili Wilkinson
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/02/19 – 05/02/19


I knew I had to  read this book as soon as I learned that it was about a girl getting a summer job with a magic show. I wanted to be a magician when I was a kid, and while I learned a few card tricks that I’ve now forgotten, I still have a soft spot for all  things magic.

I thought the main character, Sage, was really well-written. She’s homesick and sad, and trying to make the best of it. She’s also really capable, and pulls the magic show into the twenty-first century.

At first, I really loved Herb, the backstage assistant and total magic nerd. I enjoyed learning about magic as he excitedly taught things to Sage. A couple of times I went and googled things to learn more. But he did say a few things that deserved a smack on the upside of the head (like tarot and crystals being “women’s magic”) and while Sage calls him out on it, I never really got the sense that he would stop. He also complained about her stage makeup when she is replacing the usual assistant, but there was no mention of the fact that male performers also  wear makeup onstage. Look, Herb is not the worst YA love interest, by far, but he did still bother me a bit.

I think Bianca was my favourite character. She’s the superstitious magician’s assistant and it is through her character that the book examines the way the magic industry is stuck in a sexist past that a lot of other forms of entertainment are at least trying to move away from. Bianca has a lot of baggage and to be honest, there were times I wished she was the main character, because she seemed a bit more interesting than the other two.

It did weird me out a little that the theatre had no staff of its own, and that the entire thing seemed to be run by three people closely involved with the show, but not the theatre. Where was theatre management?  Where was the tech crew? To be fair, it’s only because I do theatre in my spare time that any of this stood out to me. I’m sure it wouldn’t bother a reader who doesn’t do a musical every year. 

I thought the ending was satisfying but I wondered whether others might think it ended with the kidnapper/saboteur not getting their comeuppance.  I guess YMMV on that one. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. It definitely picked up a lot in the secocnd half after a bit of a slow start. 

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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