The Popularity Spell
(Twist My Charm #1)
by Toni Gallagher
September 22, 2015
Random House Young Readers
Magic and a little twist of mayhem will charm fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Wendy Mass in this fresh, contemporary debut!
When a package arrives in the mail for Cleo Nelson, she can’t wait to open it. The birthday present is seven months late, but it’s from Uncle Arnie and that can only mean one thing: magic! Inside is a voodoo doll complete with instructions for making happy, wonderful things happen to Cleo and her friends—err, friend. Just one, really. But maybe the doll can change that. . . .
Cleo can’t wait to try out the magic with her friend, Samantha. They start small by wishing for treats (surprise pizza!), but then their spells start to grow. And when they wish for popularity, they accidentally get the popular girl in school in major trouble with the principal. Can happy spells be twisted into bad magic?
Cleo and her single father have recently moved to Los Angeles, and so far Cleo has made only one friend, Samantha. She’s also made an enemy in popular girl Madison. Cleo and Samantha long to be popular and off the mean radar of Madison, and things get even worse when Cleo’s dad gets a girlfriend. But help arrives from Uncle Arnie in the form of a voodoo doll meant to make good things happen. Cleo and Samantha test the voodoo doll out and discover that it really works! Soon they make hexes for popularity and to take Madison down, but magic can be tricky and have surprising results.
Toni Gallagher’s Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell is an amusing and clever middle-grade read full of humor, magic, relatable situations, and interesting characters. Cleo’s middle-school world, full of bullies; drama; and confusing feelings, is one that young readers will recognize and commiserate with. Gallagher explores this delicate world with age appropriate honesty, laugh-out-loud humor, and authenticity. The magical realism elements surrounding Cleo’s voodoo doll are fun and exciting! Middle-grade readers will be captivated by the voodoo doll’s powers and eager to see how each irresistible, over-the-top (in the best way) situation plays out.
Like the world Cleo lives in, the characters in Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell feel fresh, relative, and relatable. From endearing Cleo, feisty Samantha, surprising Madison, wacky Uncle Arnie, creepy crawly Millie (the millipede), and more, these are characters that young readers will enjoy and be entertained by.
my final thoughts: With an imaginative story, oodles of laughs, and great characters, Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell is definitely a charming read and I can’t wait to read book two!
4/5 yummy cupcakes
No stranger to storytelling, Toni Gallagher earned a journalism degree from Northwestern University and has had a successful career in reality TV. She began as a story editor on the early seasons of MTV’s The Real World and was a producer on the beloved and respected Disney Channel show Bug Juice, about real kids at summer camp. Currently she serves as co–executive producer of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo. Toni lives in Los Angeles and loves finding the magic in it.