Apr 18, 2012

Review: Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

book cover of Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-BradwayTitle: Ordinary Magic [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: May 8th, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
Format: Kindle edition; 288 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an "Ord"—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society. The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!
I tried with Ordinary Magic, I really did. I read every word of this book even though I kind of wanted to add it to the DNF pile long before the last page. I was so disgusted, appalled, and confused by the world that Caitlen Rubino-Bradway built that I could not click with Ordinary Magic at all. When I first saw this title pop up on NetGalley, I decided to try it because I love middle grade, and it sounded cute.  To me, I was imagining that it would be like “Story of a Squib”—the tale of an unmagical kid born into a magical world.  I didn’t realize how abhorrent the story would be.
Here’s the deal: “ords” in this society are nothing.  They’re worse than just a disappointment to their families, because most of the time, they’re no longer even considered people.  This made zero sense to me.  I get that you could compare it to some families’ reactions to finding out their kid is homosexual, or compare it to how slaves were treated in this country’s early history, but none of that could really add up for me.  I can’t understand how an entire society could find it acceptable to treat ord kids—kids they had raised and loved as friends, siblings, children until the age of 12—like worthless property.  It was generally accepted that these children could be sold, used for dangerous tasks, and they were despised to the point of people not touching them as if they were catching—this later treatment reminding me of the horrible way those with AIDS can be treated.  I guess I see what Caitlen Rubino-Bradway was doing here in turning these children into social pariahs, but I just don’t buy that these extremes could ever crop up, particularly in a society that seems very modern.
And that’s another thing I didn’t get about this book.  When it is determined that Abby is an ord, at her Judging at age 12, her family has to drain magic from the house so that she can access things (like the sink) without help, since all of these things are usually controlled by magic. This makes no sense given that prior to finding out, she wasn’t allowed to use magic and would need help for these same things…so she was 12 and could never get a box of cereal from the cupboard or wash her hands after she peed? Right…
Then there’s the reality that magic can not directly affect ords.  It can affect things around them (aka, you could light their clothing on fire), but not them.  And you can buy magic-proof clothing.  So essentially, all of these magic people are running around with no idea how to fight physical fights, and the ords could kick their butts handily, but don’t.  I get the whole, they’re the vast minority, and society represses them in part because they are scared thing, but again…it doesn’t add up for me.  If a society has become this advanced, there’s a pretty good chance that such an oppressed group with such potential power would have at some point banded together and rebelled.
I thought the school could be fun and cute, but honestly I found it rather boring.  The only highlight being that they taught kids to kick the crap out of one another.  It seemed as if there should have been a storyline developing from Abby working in the kitchen, but it never really came to anything.  In fact, I expected Abby and the other ord children to find some inner power and strength that was magical in its own right, but I didn’t really feel like they ever did.
I was glad to see that this society was changing, that the King had outlawed the selling of ords and the authorities seemed like good people, but I just expected more from this story.  I will say that Abby’s family was fantastic and the best part of this book.  Her parents loved unconditionally, and she had four older siblings—two sisters, two brothers (just like me!) that were all fun, unique, and invested in their little sister.  I think my favorite thing about Ordinary Magic was Abby’s brother Gil, who wrote popular romance novels under a woman’s name.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more: Slim to none.

Recommended for: Eh, I have a hard time recommending this one to anyone to be honest, but I will include links to some more positive reviews which I encourage you to check out so that you can decide for yourself.


  1. Interesting. I waited to read your review before requesting this one. I hate when books make me go back and read as if I missed something when really it just doesn't make sense or wasn't explained. I compared this to a "squib" story in my mind as well. I think I'll hold off on it for a while..

    1. Yeah, I mean, the writing wasn't bad or unreadable or anything, and all of the other reviews posted thus far have been positive to very positive, so maybe it just ground me the wrong way. The whole outcast thing was just too much for me, to the point that I was disgusted by it. Maybe that's not a fair reason to give a book a bad rating, but ratings aren't about the quality of a book, they're about how much you personally enjoy it.

  2. I'm sad you didn't end up liking this one. I may still read it for myself, but its priority has gone down considerably. Thanks for the review :]

    1. I hope that if you do read it, that you like it better than I did! All of the other reviews were really positive, so it really may just have been me.


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