Ok, so I finally read Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard about twenty years after I probably should have. Better late than never! It's funny, because the book recalls a lot of the other books I read around that time: Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, the books of Madeleine L'Engle, and even Prince Caspian. The most obvious series to compare it with at this point, however, is Harry Potter. Unlike JK Rowling's universe, wizards in Duane's are given very little formal instruction, learning about their craft almost exclusively through the handbook So You Want to be a Wizard, the title of which Duane patterned after career guidebooks she had seen. The story opens when thirteen-year old Nita, target of bullying Joanne, takes cover in the library and discovers the book. Soon enough she has taken the Oath and discovered another apprentice wizard, Kit Rodriguez, who also has a bully problem. Their plan to cast a protection spell and recover Nita's stolen property leads them to the heart of the struggle between light and dark.
I enjoyed the strength of the two main characters, who must rely almost entirely on their own ingenuity to do what amounts to saving the world. Their approach is haphazard and certainly not pretty, but with luck and a little bit of skill, they manage to prevail. However, it is not without great cost, and I appreciate the author's willingness to sacrifice major characters for greater impact. I don't know if my 11 year old self would have approved, though. She would probably still be crying.
The author's website. She seems to be up on her social networking, which is refreshing.
For some reason, the New York City setting also reminded me of Annie on My Mind. Hmm.