I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Sarah Gailey's newest book and I quickly inhaled it because, damn, it is just that good.
After meeting Gailey themself at Third Place Books I decided what a better topic for my first post?
Magic for Liars is outstanding. It's honestly hard for me to write a review because I just want to scream "READ IT! IT'S SO GOOD! READ IT BECAUSE IT'S SO GOOD! OMG!" But apparently since I'm a "writer" I'm expected to be more "eloquent" than that.
So, here goes. This will be mostly spoiler free. Nothing will be revealed that doesn't come out pretty early in the book.
Ivy and Tabitha Gamble are twin sisters (but not that kind of twin) who have been mostly estranged since their mothers death. Now Ivy, a jaded P.I., has been hired to investigate a murder at the school for magical teenagers where her sister teaches.
Unlike Tabitha, Ivy is not magic. And that's fine. She's fine with it. Fine.
Gailey delves deep into what high school is REALLY like. The kids are messy and mean and brilliant and incredible and petty and confused and absolutely certain about who they are. All the chaos and contradictions you remember, but maybe wish you didn't. I spent a lot of time going "yup, that is EXACTLY what would happen if teenagers had magic." Bullying and slut shaming still happens, but now there's magic involved and dang, kids are creative and also cruel sometimes.
Another place where Gailey really shines is in exploration of how trauma impacts us as humans. Lots of people in this book have trauma. There's the boy who has been told all his life that he's "The Chosen One" because of a family prophecy and that he MUST fulfill his DESTINY before he's an adult. The pressure just fries his poor teenage brain and turns him into someone who's entire being is consumed with Being Ready for his destiny.
Then there's Ivy and Tabitha. Who are two sides of the same trauma coin. Ivy stood by, putting her life on hold, and having a front row seat to her mother's painful, lingering death. She turned to hurting herself with alcohol and isolation and job that forces her to look at the ugliest of human nature day after day. While Tabitha was already away at school where she turned inward towards perfectionism and overachieving. They both built up their own narratives around their estrangement and the role the other played in it. The pain and bitterness of those self-created narratives serves as a kind of unspoken conversation that underlies every interaction they have with each other.
But, while this book delves deep and sticks a fingers in a lot of unhealed wounds, don't think it's not fun. Because, this is Sarah Fuckin' Gailey. There is room for fun and hilarity along side Feelings. There's delightful playing with, subverting, twisting, and upending noir tropes and high school tropes and magic school fantasy book tropes. And it's a great mystery to top it all off. It's a masterfully crafted story and I can't recommend it highly enough.