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Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“We didn’t wonder where the magic came from, or why it worked. We never asked ourselves, Is this ours to take? We were three damp ducklings, green as leaves, believing with all our crooked hearts that we were the ones writing this story. Even as a dead woman’s book paved the road beneath our feet.”

Incredible gifts and monstrous secrets can both be passed down through generations. Even the most powerful spells can’t keep them buried forever.

Our Crooked Hearts brought back memories of the magic that filled the air during high school summers, a time when possibility and curiosity come together to unearth the depths of oneself, to show you who you really are and who you could become.

Ivy, a young woman on summer break from high school, feels like she’s on the outside of her own life searching for something, but she’s not sure what. She doesn’t quite know herself, and she’s never really understood her mother, Dana, either. Dana thinks she knows what’s best for Ivy, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her own troubled past hidden and to protect Ivy from an unseen world of death, regrets, and promises of power that come at a price.

A dark mystery ignites Ivy’s pursuit of answers to questions she can’t quite reach:

“There was a quiet place at the center of me. A pool of black water frozen to a sheen. It was made up of the questions it was easier not to ask, the mysteries I didn’t bother prodding.”

This YA fantasy is for those of us who can’t get enough of witches, covens, and paranormal powers. Our Crooked Hearts is about a magical legacy, secrets coming back to haunt those who keep them, love lost and found, hunger for power, and good intentions but poor decisions. There are badass LGBTQIA characters and women who take risks with every part of their hearts.

Melissa Albert always delivers on the suspense, dynamic characters with ambiguous morality – questioning and reflecting instead of blindly upholding expectations. Fascinating, layered characters, expert world-crafting, and vivid prose make this tale captivating from beginning to end. I would love to read more in this universe.

Multiple worlds exist at once in this story. We have the real world in real-time, we dip into the past, there’s an alternate magical realm and the world of the subconscious where memories and dreams exist. Nostalgia for decades past is woven into each of these worlds with mentions of “…Bugles and Pop-Tarts and Cool Ranch Doritos,” swatch watches, late-night Denny’s trips, “nails painted in chipped black Wet n Wild.”

One of my favorite features of this tale are Ivy’s dream abilities and how the author describes the world of lucid dreaming so accurately and vividly:

“I knew how it should go next, how it had always gone, when I was young and dreaming was my kingdom: the dark would unpack itself like a trunk of costume clothes, spreading out into colors as soft as watercolor on an eggshell, drifting like curtains in a breeze. I could walk forward and touch them, all these sea and sky colors you couldn’t name, that shifted in your mouth when you tried. An infinite number to walk through, into a dream.”

Even though Ivy’s internal and external reality is like a clouded gazing crystal revealing more questions than answers, her powerful intuition keeps calling her to the truth. Like many of Melissa Albert’s characters, Ivy is gifted with amazing abilities but still struggles to trust herself, giving the reader something to identify with – this universal feeling that we know what to do and yet we fear we could be wrong.

Sometimes you want to erase what you think will cause your loved ones pain, but you can’t correct your mistakes by controlling someone else’s choices. People can’t be saved from themselves. We can only stand together, lend power to one another, and make each choice as you’re presented with options. Maybe those choices won’t be the best, but they’ll be yours.

In the next book of this series (that’s just me putting a wish out into the world for 2022!), I’d love to dive into the worlds of Fee and Billy. These two characters need more air time. I’d love to see Billy’s depth and imperfections. Fee is just so fascinating. I want to hear more about her inner world. I’d also like to explore the in-between places in this universe – dream landscapes, places between life and death. More, more, more!

I would enthusiastically recommend this book to my kindred fantasy, magic, and witch lovers.

If you enjoy The Magicians by Lev Grossman, the movie The Craft, the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the books Sorrowland, The Chosen and the Beautiful, A Deadly Education, or Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, you will LOVE Our Crooked Hearts.

View my reviews on Goodreads…


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