After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road-trip with her best friend Lia.
But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.
In The Charmed List, Julie Abe sweeps readers away to a secret magical world, complete with cupcakes and tea with added sparks of joy, and an enchanted cottage where you can dance under the stars.
What a delightful witchy book this was! It was just the kind of story I was looking for. The Charmed List follows our main character Ellie Kobata, a “magic-aware” shy high school student who is a bit of a wallflower and prefers to be “invisible.” She also used to be best friends with Jack Yasuda, but after Jack ghosted her and humiliated her at school, they’ve been enemies ever since.
Ellie is on the verge of leaving on a summer road trip with her best friend, Lia. Determined to no longer remain invisible and let life pass her by, Ellie has also created an ‘anti-wallflower list’ containing 13 items that she wants to complete over the summer, including dancing under the stars and kissing a boy, and getting revenge on Jack Yasuda. However, her vengeance scheme doesn’t go according to plan and instead lands her in plenty of hot water with both their parents. As punishment, Ellie’s and Lia’s trip is canceled, and instead, Ellie and Jack have to travel together to a Magical Convention where both their families will be selling their wares.
They reluctantly agree to bury the hatchet and attempt to get along during the trip. But as the journey progresses (including stops in a Magical Village and at a Magical Hotel), Ellie begins to realize how much she’s missed having Jack in her life. Moreover, her feelings for him may be shifted from enemy to…something more, something different than before.
I tend to enjoy road trip books (especially the forced proximity kind), and this one was super fun. I loved the witchy vibe to this story, rendering it a magical reading experience. The friends-to-lovers aspect was exceptionally well done, and I adored the lovely relationship that developed between Ellie and Jack, evolving into something more than the friendship they once had experienced. It’s also worth mentioning that some hidden secrets and non-evident family dynamics are revealed as we move through the pages.
The Charmed List ended up being such a heartfelt and whimsical story about feeling: feeling love, feeling friendship, feeling magical, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the one reason there are walls around us is that we put them there ourselves. That being said, I loved the characters of both Ellie and Jack and found them to be believable and relatable, and charming. In addition, I thought the world-building was exceptional and enjoyed the easy-to-understand magic system that the author created.
All in all, this book is a delightful friends-to-enemies-to-lover romp that I’m so glad came to my attention. The author’s lush writing gives way to a sweet and endearing tale of love and forgiveness ―all with just a hint of magic—and I loved this book through and through. A wonderful, heart-tugger of a love story for anyone who enjoys a sweet love story with a dash of magical realism thrown in.
A huge thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for providing a review copy of this novel. Expected publication date is July 5, 2022.