WITCHLIGHT written and illustrated by Jessi Zabarsky is a graphic novel for ages 12 and up that focuses on personal interactions and deepening values as much as heroic adventures. The author has described the novel as a “shojo- adventure,” a manga genre that features relationships as much as magic and fantasy. The main characters are likable and relatably flawed, making them perfect for middle grade readers. Advanced readers will find the episodic style that includes flashbacks and sudden changes in setting easy to navigate, but it may be a confusing challenge for reluctant readers. However, the heart-warming story is worth the work for those who persevere.
Sanja and Lelek, the main characters, have a stormy and magnetic relationship. What starts in fighting becomes a friendship and later a romance. They both have childhoods with difficult, even horrific, experiences. And both young women make mistakes and disappoint themselves and each other along the way. Themes of bigotry, falling in love, maintaining friendship, and confronting the past all factor into the storyline. The book began as a serialized comic, and that shows in some of the jagged transitions. The interesting approach to witchcraft and how it is incorporated into Sanja and Lelek’s worlds will smooth over much of the roughness, as will the irresistible main characters.
WITCHLIGHT is out April 14th, 2020. Preorder it from your independent bookstore.