As I was reading Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I said, “I wish I had her brain!”
I enjoyed so many things about Headley’s debut young adult novel: the characters, the setting(s), and the intelligence; most of all, though, it was the absolute inventiveness of Headley’s fantasy story that sucked me in.
Magonia is the story of Aza Ray Boyle, a brilliant teenage girl (who reads a lot, thank you!) plagued since infancy with ill health and a distant mother. I loved Aza, though some people might find her unlikable due to her tendency to be antisocial and how she seems at first to adjust so easily to a total change in her life. The exception to her general dislike of people is her friendship with Jason Kerwin, who is equally brilliant (he once built da Vinci’s Icarus wings), has all of the numbers of π memorized, and has been her constant companion since early childhood. I really did love the pair of them together. They got up to some serious mischief.
As Aza nears her sixteenth birthday, her health troubles continue, only to vanish as soon as she is whisked into Magonia, a world that floats in the air above our own, and whose people reside on ships or in the capital city of Maganwetar. Once there, she finds that she can finally breathe—but Aza is smothered in a different sense as she learns the truth about who she is and those she must now call family. As her earthbound family and Jason Kerwin try to make sense of losing her, Aza is sucked into the struggle between her ship’s captain Zal and the capital of Magonia, Maganwetar.
The whole of the book was impressive thanks to Headley’s vivid imagination, the mathematical and other intellectual references that she includes in the book, the new mythology she presents and the older mythologies she manipulates, her ability to manipulate the actual text on the page to tell her story, her neologisms (I did try to look up “ethologidion,” among other words, and was happy to find they were not words—for the record, she is my favorite word creator since Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale), and the fact that Aza was not the typical YA heroine. I especially loved that Jason has two moms—I love to see all family situations represented in literature.
Apparently, though, some of those elements were too much for some people, as evidenced by Headley’s response one day on Twitter, used here with her permission:
Again, I’ll just say, “I wish I had her brain!”
Fore more information, check out the Epic Reads trailer!