I don’t read much middle-grade, so it’s not an age group that you see many reviews for on my blog. But I do like to pick it up from time to time, and this year I am aiming to read more of it. The instant I heard about Like A Charm, I knew that it was a book that I needed to read. It’s one that I both would have adored as a kid and now as an adult too.
Like a Charm follows Ramya, a 12-year-old girl who can see through magical creatures glamour. After her Grandad dies, she’s pulled into her family’s secrets and the world of the Hidden Folk. Ramya has always been different because of her disability, and now her differences can be used for good.
I mentioned in that brief summary that Ramya is disabled, and her disability is dyspraxia. It might not be one you’ve heard much about – unless you’ve seen a particular character’s intro episode in Doctor Who – but it’s essentially a learning disability that can affect motor skills. It’s something I’ve had all my life, and I was diagnosed when I was 3. So I’ve never known any different. When I was Ramya’s age, I was still just calling my dyspraxia motor skill problems. I didn’t know much about it. I’d certainly never seen my disability in books or any other form of media. I really wish I had. Maybe then I’d have seen that yes, I was actually disabled, but that was okay. That you could still be the hero, even if you might trip over a lot of things trying to defeat the monsters.
This book meant a lot to me before I even read it. As someone with dyspraxia, I knew I had to read and review it. I’m so glad I picked it up. And it also didn’t make me cry like I thought it might. So that was a bonus.
Ramya is a very relatable main character. As someone with the same disability as her, that was likely to happen. But I also think she’ll be relatable to others with disabilities or just those who struggle with being different. She’s a little angry and badly behaved, but you understand why. Her parents are barely there for her, her teachers are singling her out, and she’s so very alone. It’s pretty sad to start with, but as you see those relationships change in the book, it’ll bring a smile to your face. I can’t say I ever lashed out in the way Ramya is prone to, but I also had good parents and wasn’t singled out by teachers. Actually, I was usually in top sets-especially for English, heck yeah – despite my writing. My only weak subjects were P.E – duh with dyspraxia – and maths as I’m just useless with numbers. So I know in ways I was luckier than Ramya with my schooling. And that’s something I’m grateful for. But I wouldn’t recommend kids hide their disability from teachers so they don’t get extra help and stand out. I regret it now, and it wasn’t a clever decision. I just didn’t want to stand out. Just like Ramya shouts that she doesn’t.
When it comes to writing, this book was so easy to read. I probably could have gobbled it up in a night if I hadn’t needed to sleep. The writing itself is both emotional and funny. You could really feel Ramya through it, and her thought processes made her feel like she was your new best friend. This book did have a lot of humour to it too. Murrey, the vampire, was a particular favourite of mine. I too love books, garlic and butter. Though not necessarily together. I also found Ramya and Marley’s growing friendship to be pretty entertaining. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to grow up close together. Think of the duo they could have been if they had. But their friendship was sweet, and it’s nice to see family members be close together. Especially as there is a lot of family issues within this book.
The final thing I want to talk about is the magical creatures. We have a variety of vampires, witches and sirens, but we also have the fae. Faeries are considered one particular species, and I’ll get into them in a minute. But this book also features kelpies, sprites and hulders. All of which can be considered types of fae. So it was nice to see some variety of fae in this book, even if a bunch of them are considered separate species. I liked how McNicoll handled the labelled fae in this book. Beneath their glamour, they weren’t beautiful or winged. They were creepy and almost monstrous. I liked that, as it fits the idea of an evil fae so much more. Generally, I’m against labelling fae as evil or good. But, hey, this is Scottish folklore. This is where the Seelie and Unseelie came from. McNicoll gave a touch of that with her fae, without using the courts, and I am a big fan of that.
I loved this book so much, and you know I’m going to be preordering book two. This book is worth a read by every single person out there who reads middle-grade. But if you’re dyspraxic yourself, definitely pick this book up. If you know a dyspraxic child. Then make sure this book gets into their hands. This book is amazing, but it’ll mean the world to those of us who want to be able to see ourselves as heroes. Even if other people and our abilities suggest that usually, we wouldn’t be.
Thank you so much, Elle. Ramya might be the hero of your book, but you’re a hero to the rest of us.
Title: Like A Charm
Author: Elle McNicoll
Age Range: Middle-grade (8-12)
Publisher: Knights Of