Title: The Magical Imperfect
Author: Chris Baron
Genre: Realistic Middle Grade Fiction/Books in Verse
Number of Pages: 336
I had mixed feelings about this book. I’m obviously not it’s target audience and I would recommend that readers (especially kids) just try it for themselves and see what they think. The Magical Imperfect is a sentimental story about a Jewish boy named Etan who befriends Malia, a girl with extreme eczema that other kids cruelly nickname ‘the creature.’ This is set during the 1980’s shortly before a devastating earthquake, and it also deals with mental health issues (Etan has elective mutism and his mom is in a mental hospital), immigration, intolerance, and religion.
I felt like it tried to handle too many topics and the plotline about Etan’s mother was particularly overlooked. I assume she’s supposed to have depression but there’s no detail put into her illness at all. She’s simply described as having been ‘sad’ and going to a hospital to get better. I kind of liked the magical realism elements but again I’m not quite sure that they fit in with everything else well. I wasn’t sure I liked the decision to have Malia’s skin condition greatly improved (though not cured) by magical clay.
It seems dishonest when you use magic to improve real-world problems in a setting that it mostly realistic. Another issue I had with this book was that the main characters didn’t really have any flaws. They were so overwhelmingly good and sensitive to the needs of others and this made them feel slightly one-dimensional. Etan’s grandfather could have been interesting but he was so full of wisdom and platitudes the book denied him the chance to become an believable character with moments of weakness as well as strength. That said, I enjoyed reading this book well enough. Chris Baron is a pretty good writer and Malia and Etan’s friendship was endearing. I just thought it could have been a lot more than what it was.