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Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

In this episode, Sarah and Diem review The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil. We share the 10 reasons why we loved Melissa Keil’s latest YA novel so much. 300x600

Show notes

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer


blog tour, loveozya, review, spoiler free

Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil


Joshua is good at magic tricks, ignoring his homework, and not thinking about life after year twelve. He’s not so good at talking to Sophia, the genius in his class who he’s had a crush on for years. But with their time together in high school running out, he has to do something about it, soon – because if he’s learned one thing, it’s that timing is everything.

Sophia is smart enough to know that geniuses like her can end up as socially inept recluses. In fact, maybe she’s halfway there already, what with the panic attacks and her best (and only) friend Elsie drifting away. All Sophia can do is seek refuge in what she understands best: maths, science, logic. But there’s no logical explanation for the odd, almost magical things happening around her. And there are some things no amount of study can prepare you for…

Thanks Hardie Grant Egmont for sending Bookish Friends an ARC of The Secret Science of Magic.

We did review The Secret Science of Magic in a podcast. However, we have misplaced half of the recording and as a result, Diem hasn’t had a change to edit the podcast. Technology! #Timingiseverything and ours is terrible! However, we are on top of this and are trying to fix the problem as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this means the podcast episode will be uploaded later than expected.

For the review, Sarah and Diem both share the 5 reasons they loved The Secret Science of Magic.

Sarah loved…

Sam and Camilla

One of my favourite things about The Secret Science of Magic was getting to revisit Sam, Camilla and their friends from Life in Outer Space. I adored reading their story the first time (and on many, many subsequent rereads) and it was super cool to see how they’d grown since Life in Outer Space. I’d heard that they would be featuring in this book before I read it, so it didn’t come as a surprise, but from the first moment that they were introduced, I was delighted. It was interesting to see them all from a slightly more outside perspective, as it added more to their already fab characterisation. But mostly, it was nice to just revisiting them. It felt like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, and even though you see they’ve grown and matured, they’re still unmistakably themselves.

the Maths!

As someone studying physics, it makes me very happy to see characters who are as into science and maths as I am. I enjoy seeing characters who are creative and artistic, but I think we need more characters who are passionate about science. This meant that I deeply appreciated Sophia, who is a total maths whizz. She genuinely loves and is talented at maths, without the need for a “but I won’t be popular if I like maths!” storyline. I could ramble on about how weird I find society’s relationship with mathematics for ages, but I loved seeing maths (and science, to extent) presented in such a positive way, as something Sophia is passionate about.

the cute romance

The relationship that develops between Sophia and Josh is all sorts of lovely. I’m a sucker for a sweet, slow-burn romance that is as much about the characters growing close and becoming friends as it is about them falling for each other, and The Secret Science of Magic more than delivers. Melissa Keil toys with a couple of tropes and twists them in a way that was very clever. All the little illusions and magic tricks that Josh left for Sophia were a definite highlight and very sweet. I loved seeing them go from basically strangers to having such as caring, considerate and supportive relationship. Many warm fuzzies.

that Josh has a life and friends outside of school

I found myself really enjoying the fact that Josh’s social life isn’t limited to school. I think there is a tendency in YA (which is undoubtedly because it’s the case in real life as well) for school to be the character’s whole world. So when we were introduced to Josh’s circle of friends, who he has a great rapport with, I was very pleased. As well as providing a nice contrast with Sophia, who’s more caught up in school, I liked how it portrayed a sense of hopefulness about finding real friendships, even if it’s not at high school. The fact that Josh is different, more confident outside of school was a very positive addition to the story.

Melissa Keil’s writing

The best word I can think of to describe Melissa Keil’s prose is lively. Sparkling would work too. With The Secret Science of Magic, as with her other books, there’s this beautiful vitality to her writing that ultimately leaves you feeling uplifted. Dual POV novels are something I personally find can be a bit hit or miss, but in this case it worked so well, and I think was stronger than if the novel had all been from Sophia’s perspective.  Josh’s chapters were generally lighter-spirited than Sophia’s, so they added some really refreshing balance to the story. The humour is delightful, character development is spot on and even though The Secret Science of Magic didn’t quite beat Life in Outer Space for the title of My Favourite Melissa Keil Book, it further cemented her as one of the authors whose books I’m sure to read.

Diem loved…

the female friendship

The only thing I love reading more than swoon worthy or cute romances is solid female friendships! There are the bad, toxic ones and the ones that that where you yell ‘You are my rock!’ at a moving bus (yes, this is a reference to Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta). Sophia and Elsie’s friend falls under the latter. However, it’s also incredibly complicated as they are moving at different paces. It reminded me of my own complicated friendships and left me wanting Elsie as my best friend. I think we would get along like a house on fire.

the characters that were unsure about their future

Joshua is one of those people who are naturally intelligent but a complete slacker at school. It’s Year 12 and he still doesn’t have a clue what course he’ll do at university. Sophia is a child prodigy and is extremely concerned with what the future will hold for her – will she end up as a recluse or a complete weirdo? Or will she be able to soar? Reading about characters who are also unsure about the future make me feel like I don’t have to figure it all out just yet.

the diversity

The Secret Science of Magic is set in Melbourne so if there weren’t any people of colour, it wouldn’t be the Melbourne I know and love. Readers also expect to see diversity in the books they consume and rightly so, because the fictional worlds should reflect real life.

the mental health representation

Melissa Keil describes Sophia’s anxiety in a way that I found quite comforting and respectable. Reading about Sophia’s panic attacks was something that struck a chord with me. It was the best description of anxiety that I’ve read in a book in a while. Unfortunately, there’s stigma around mental health and I think any careful and respectable depiction of anxiety in fiction that prompts discussion is welcomed.

the sibling dynamics

I loved reading the scenes between Elsie and her brothers. Sophia’s relationship with her brother is very distant and awkward. By the end of the novel, they aren’t exactly happy families but their relationship has developed for the better. This pleased me greatly.

Sarah: 4.5/5

Diem: 4.5/5

Bookish Friends is the last stop on The Secret Science of Magic blog tour. Be sure to check out all the other reviews if you haven’t already.


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Book Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

In this episode, Jen and Diem review ‘Wor9781743289570ds in Deep Blue’ by Cath Crowley by giving you, dear listeners, 10 reasons why we love the book.

Thanks Pan Macmillan for sending us a review copy of ‘Words in Deep Blue’.

Below are bits and pieces from our review. However, do give the podcast episode a listen. It’s way better.


10 things we love about Words in Deep Blue and they are why you should read it

  1. Howling books

Jen: ‘Books! Obviously we like books!’

Diem: ‘We like books and I want Howling Books to be a real place. It sounds like such a cozy warm place ‘cause there’s a café next door and I think if Howling Books existed I’d just hang out there all the time.’


Diem: ‘The Letter Library is a part of Howling Books and I thought it was just gorgeous. I really loved it.’

Jen: ‘Basically, it’s a section of the bookstore where there are heaps of books. Sometimes there are like multiple copies of the same books. And people come in and they leave notes. They leave notes and letters and sticky notes and different things. They can write in the books…You can go in and you can read all of those. And you can have a conversation with someone…You get to connect with someone.’


Jen: ‘Diem and I use to read the same books and we’d leave sticky notes and notes and things inside the books. And I guess that’s one of the reasons why we loved Words in Deep Blue so much. Because we could relate to it a lot more.’

Diem: ‘It’s like we’re reading it together.’

  1. Bibliophiles

Diem: ‘This book is full of bibliophiles, full of readers, full of people who love reading and love books. And different kinds of bibliophiles… and Henry is a boy who reads [Diem’s note: heart eyes for daysssss].

‘Words in Deep Blue is a book for readers. Pretty much. Readers will really connect with this book and go yeah, this is it. This is why we read.’

  1. The characters

Diem: ‘I love Henry. Even though, he…’

Jen: ‘He’s so pathetic.’


Diem: ‘I love Rachel, and I love Cal. Cal, the brother who drowned in the sea that he loved. Cal is gorgeous, so-’

Jen: ‘That’s another thing! The Letter Library allows for people who are gone to sort of interact with people in the current day as well.

Diem; ‘Even though we never actually meet Cal, as in he’s not alive. He lives through the letters and books and the memories of the living. Of Rachel, and everything else.’

  1. The cover, the layout of the book, the typography

Diem: ‘How gorgeous…Whenever I look at the cover I just discover something new and because I’ve read the book. It’s like “oh that fits in so well”’

Jen: ‘It’s so beautiful.’

Diem: ‘You just need to buy a copy of this book. You want to own this book. You want a physical copy. You don’t want an ebook.’

Jen: ‘This is a book you want a physical copy of. Ebooks won’t do it justice.’

  1. The references to other writers/authors and books

Diem: ‘Like we said, this book is for bibliophiles. And this is a book for bookworms.’

Jen: ‘Little references to authors and books.’

Diem: ‘I need to reread it and write it all down. Heaps of references to John Green and The Fault in Our Stars…There’s a reference to Fiona Wood and Simmone Howell. And they are IRL BFFs. They are a girl gang. They are writing a book together as well. WHICH IS REALLY EXCITING. WOOO!

Jen: ‘YAY!’

Diem: ‘I thought that was super fun. That as a lovely, y’know, nod. And you should listen to Unladylike podcast because there’s an episode on friendship-‘

Jen: ‘And they’re in it as well.’

Diem: ‘Also, another young adult book was Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar…it wasn’t just a line. It was a whole paragraph.’

  1. Cath’s writing

Diem: ‘We love Cath’s writing.’

Jen: ‘It’s so gorgeous.’

Diem: ‘It’s like Graffiti Moon, which is the last book that she wrote. So if you haven’t read Graffiti Moon, what are you doing? Read Graffiti Moon! And if you have read Graffiti Moon, and you loved it to bits. You will love Words in Deep Blue heaps and even more…I’ve been pretty much waiting for Words in Deep Blue since I finished Graffiti Moon when it was first published. And it’s so beautiful and it’s so heartbreaking.’

Jen: ‘Just how everything is tied in together.’

Diem: ‘We don’t have the words in our vocabulary to describe how beautiful it is.’

‘I wanted to devour it but I also wanted to mull over the words so I can take everything in and reading this out loud would have been beautiful.’

  1. The Melbourne setting

Diem: ‘It’s very Melbourne! There’s talk of ‘over the river’ and ‘the other side of the river’, different sides of the river. Y’know, the north and the south. Just the vibe, you can really feel it.’

  1. The idea of coping with grief and moving on

Diem: ‘I thought that was really well done, and we’re not going to say much else on it. I don’t think we can.’

Jen: ‘There’s not much we can say.’

Diem: “It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.’

Jen: ‘There are different types of grief that they have to deal with. Obviously, with Rachel and her brother and Henry and his parents’ separation.’

  1. The letters

Diem: ‘Letters play a huge role in this novel as well. And I love letters. I love reading letters in books.’

Jen: ‘Just the conversation and the relationship between the different characters through the letters. A lot of the time the characters don’t talk to each other; they write letters to each other. And it’s lovely.’

  1. It’s a love story

Diem: ‘It’s a love story between the readers and the book. It’s a love story with friends. That’s a love story. And family. And it’s also, of course, romantic relationships. It’s a love story’

Jen: ‘You do feel really warm and fuzzy and nice inside after you finish reading it. You do feel a bit sad but it’s so gorgeous. Guys, you have to read this!’

Diem: ‘You really need to read this and we love this so much.’

Discussion to come. 

Show notes

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

The Tome Travellers

Unladylike Podcast: Episode 2-On Friendship

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Check out the rest of the blog tour. 

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