When your beloved witchy grandmother is dead, your best friend is dating the son of one of the meanest, richest women in town, and your dreams have been hijacked by a couple of Southern belle spirits who seem to be trying to kill you, what’s a girl to do? Caffeine up and go on a ghost hunt, of course.
Crescent is the story of 16 year old Stella Fortunat, a girl who wears way too much eyeliner, drinks way too much coffee, and has way too many expectations set on her by a devoutly religious mother. Most of her life has been occupied by work at her family’s café, blending her own eye shadows in her bedroom, and sitting at the feet of her Tarot-reading, Voodoo-practicing “GG”. Now, Stella’s own prophetic dreams seem to have taken a very dangerous turn, the aforementioned mean woman seems to have something to do with it, and her best friend and the cute boy who roasts her favorite beans seem to think she’s a bit crazy. From mystical visions to masquerade balls, Crescent is a journey that’s dark and playful, poignant and funny.
I really enjoyed the exploration of friendship, grief, and complicated family relationships in this ghost hunt mystery set in New Orleans. For me, the themes are enough to overcome some flaws and make this a book I’d recommend.
The writing is mystical and magical in places while attempting to balance a fine line between faith and magic. Some of the subject matter (voo doo, tarot readings, summoning spirits, etc) might be too dark for younger or more sensitive readers. I was intrigued by the premise and plot- Stella Fortunat is grieving the loss of her witchy grandmother, GG, and exploring her own magical predispositions while living and working under the tight rule of her Catholic Church attending mother. Her best friend, Colette, starts dating the new boy at school and has her own magical experiences linked to Stella’s when her absent father suddenly shows up again. These experiences send the girls on a hunt for treasure guided by the spirits.
Even though he was only a secondary character, I really enjoyed the character of Father Brian. He's the priest at Stella’s mother church who guides Stella through some of her grief and helps to answer some of her questions about her identity while she struggles with embracing her own magical powers. He’s kind, thoughtful, and patient with Stella and her questions about the balance between the power of faith and the power of magic.
In one of the strongest scenes emotionally, Stella wrestles with the understanding that her GG had not always been as wonderful and loving as she remembers. Father Brian helps her to understand that anytime we have unrealistic expectations in relationships, we are setting ourselves up for hurt and disappointment. I found this quote particularly meaningful:
“When you give people permission to be human, Stella, they will amaze you with their divinity”
What Left Me Wanting More:
The dialogue between Stella and her mother and Stella and her Colette felt forced and contrived in places, sometimes leaning towards the unbelievable. Stella does a love interest in this story and while it’s a secondary plot to the main plot of the ghost hunt, it never really felt real or believable to me. The two characters don’t spend a lot of meaningful time together on the page and yet Stella’s feelings were increasing significantly quickly.
Some of the action scenes, especially the penultimate scene towards the end of the book where the girls discover the secret to the hidden treasure, were very confusing. Several characters are possessed by various ghosts, the narrative jumps back and forth between present reality and a dream world, and a specific character shows up at the last minute with no explanation that feels believable. This was frustrating as a reader because the entire book led up to this one interaction, this one moment where the girls figure it all out and fight the spirits and people working against them and it was too confusing for me to keep track of how it all resolved.
Crescent explores grief, friendship, and family in a meaningful way within the larger story of a witchy treasure hunt with exciting and nuanced characters.