A Girl's Guide to Love and Magic

A Girl's Guide to Love and Magic
Age Range
Release Date
August 02, 2022
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Perfect for fans of The Sun Is Also a Star and Blackout, this YA novel from Debbie Rigaud is a celebration of Haitian and Caribbean culture, and a story of first love, vodou, and finding yourself, all set against the backdrop of the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn.
Cicely Destin lives for the West Indian Day Parade, the joyous celebration of Caribbean culture that takes over the streets of her neighborhood. She loves waving the Haitian flag, sampling delicious foods, and cheering for the floats. And this year? She’ll get to hang with her stylish aunt, an influencer known for dabbling in Haitian Vodou.

And maybe spot her dreamy crush, Kwame, in the crowd.

But fate has other ideas. Before the parade, a rogue, mischievous spirit seems to take possession of Cicely's aunt during a spiritual reading. Cicely hardly knows anything about Vodou, or how to get someone un-possessed. But it’s up to her to set things right--and the clock is ticking. She'll have to enlist the help of her quick-thinking best friend, Renee, and, as luck would have it...Kwame.

Cicely, her friends, and the reckless spirit who is now their charge set off on a thrilling scavenger hunt to gather the ceremonial items they need. And along the way, will Cicely discover surprising powers of her on?

Bestselling author Debbie Rigaud infuses this novel with sparkling wit, romance, and nuance that will keep readers riveted and enchanted.

Editor review

1 review
A Magical New York City Adventure
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Cecily Destin is so excited to be turning 15 during the Labor Day weekend that also includes the West Indian Day Parade that she can't really concentrate on school at Christian Prep. Her parents have a restaurant, Port au Princesse, and will have a booth at the parade. Most exciting of all, her social influencer aunt Mimose will be interviewing the music star Papash and has invited Cecily and her best friend Renee to come along! Her mother isn't too thrilled with Mimose's embracing of their Haitian Vodou culture, and since the death of their mother, Grandma Rose, Cecily hasn't spent as much time with her aunt. She's glad to go to a tarot card reading with her aunt before the interview on the day of the parade, but things go badly wrong. The client, Juste, wants Mimose to perform a ritual, but she declines. He insists, spitting rum on her and causing her to be possessed by the spirit called Erzu. Erzu is concerned with how she looks and is rather laid back, which is good, because Cecily and Renee have to find a way to have the spirit removed. Luckily, she happens upon classmate Kwame, and takes refuge with her aunt in his apartment. His younger brother, Kofi, has been interested in a variety of Black cultural magic since reading Ronald L. Smith's Hoodoo, and is able to give them a rough idea of what needs to be done to bring the aunt back. This sends the four off into the celebration to find items needed for the ritual, including a priestess! They run into all sorts of snags, meet a variety of people in the community, and manage to have a good time despite worrying about Mimose. The interview is thankfully put off, since Papash is busy with other things, which buys them some time. Cecily has always thought that Kwame was kind of cute, and he is sweet, helpful, and seems to have a bit of a crush on her. Will Cecily and her friends be able to navigate the celebration and manage to bring Mimose back to herself?
Good Points
If you haven't looked at this book because you think it is Young Adult, stop right there and go find a copy! Even though Cecily is in high school, this is 100% a fabulous city adventure book similar to Tarpley's The Harlem Charade or Farrar's Song for Bijou. Cecily is in high school, but dealing with many of the same things middle schoolers do; struggles with parents' expectations, missing a grandparent who has recently passed away, and having a very sweet crush on a classmate. Of course, since she's older, she is free to wander around New York City with her aunt even when she is possessed by a spirit. I loved learning about the West Indian Day Parade and all of the different cultural practices, food, and celebrations. She gets a lot of support from community members, Renee, and even her mother, in a surprising twist. Now I almost want to go to New York to experience this for myself!

It took me several chapters to get my mind around the fact that this wasn't going to be typical Young Adult fare, which usually is more introspective and not as packed with action. Not that Rigaud, who also did the fabulous Simone Breaks All the Rules would do that to me, but the Young Adult tone is just not my favorite a lot of the time, and this was billed as Young Adult. This was so much fun, and it's going to be perfect for my middle school readers who want to read about slightly older characters.

This is perfect for readers who want upper middle grade stories like Watson's Love is a Revolution, Richardson's The Meet-Cute Project, Bajpai's A Match Made in Mehendi or Kasie West's oevre. It was a fantastic summer read. My only regret is that I wasn't able to pick up any Haitian food to eat while reading it!
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