The Charmed List / Julie Abe / Book Review

This is a summer for change. Ellie's got big plans, after all: a roadtrip with her best friend down the California coast with a magic convention at the end and, more importantly, an Anti-Wallflower Bucket List to complete along the way. This is the summer that Ellie will break out of her shell and finally start living life. 

But a prank gone wrong changes all of Ellie's plans. Instead of the best-friend roadtrip she had planned, she gets stuck instead with Jack, the neighbor boy and heir to a rival magic shop. Once best friends, it's been years since Ellie and Jack have spoken with anything but malice. But now they're stuck together, transporting their parents' magical wares to the convention. Suddenly, Ellie's summer for breaking out of her shell because a summer of torture instead--particularly infuriating (and kind of cute) torture. 


I was surprised (and delighted) that this book was actually magical. There is magic in this book. So many books have tricked me this year with their "magical" blurbs. I thought this one would, too--full of whimsy and charm but no real magic. I love that this book has magic. I love the extra layer that adds to this sweet love story. That magical tint sets this one apart from its contemporary peers.


  • Lia: I loved the character of Lia. I loved that Ellie had a best friend who wasn't catty or mean toward her, who supported her goals and also supported who Ellie is at her core. It might take Lia some time to process the situation as it evolves, but I liked that, too. Sometimes the silent treatment is beneficial to preserve a friendship. I love seeing girls with friends, girls who support each other. We need more friends in like Lia. 
  • Nemesis Togetherness: This is a classic setup, but Julie Abe executes it so well. These nemeses are stuck together in a car on a roadtrip, all alone, thanks to parental pushing. It's awkward and uncomfortable from the first moment, and that tension only increases as they recognize the more attractive qualities in each other. If only they were stuck somewhere with only one bed... It might be classic and tropey, but it's still fun. 
  • YA References: I love a book with a healthy sprinkling of literary references. I especially love that this contemporary romance isn't afraid to makes itself truly contemporary with its literary references--references to currently popular (or new) YA titles. Anyone who reads in or is familiar with the market will recognize these name drops--and might just pick up a book or two to add to their TBR. These name drops felt like an author supporting her favorites (or her friends) without being out of place or unnatural, and I love that, too. 


  • Lia's Backstory: As much as I love Lia and what she does for this story, her own backstory feels a little... extreme. Okay, not a little extreme. Her backstory is very extreme. It is absolutely wild and hyperbolic in a way that the rest of the story is not. It didn't fit. It felt weird and off--like someone felt there needed to be a reason for Lia to have trust issues to the extent she did and then took that to the absolute extreme. It didn't work for me.
  • Low Stakes: It's a romance, so of course the stakes here aren't high. Even for a romance, however, the stakes here felt pretty low. It felt like these characters didn't have much to lose, so why shouldn't they go all in for this budding relationship? Lack of stakes is fine. This story is fun. But if you're a reader who wants a romance to tug on your heartstrings (or make you at least a little bit nervous for that sweet happily-ever-after), you won't find that depth here. 
  • Nonsensical History: This couple goes from friends to enemies to lovers. But the history here (the initial separation) makes no sense. There's a reason given, of course, but it isn't a very good one. Ultimately, this doesn't keep Jack and Ellie apart. So why did it keep them apart for all those years? You might argue that the roadtrip forced them together--that's what changed!--but things change before these enemies are stuck in close proximity. They're open and willing to change beforehand, so why did it take them this long? It just doesn't make sense. 



Those who like a lightly magical contemporary romance like Susan Bishop Crispell's The Holloway Girls will like this new charmed couple. Fans of Ashley Schumacher's Amelia Unabridged might like this new take on a roadtrip with romance waiting at the end. 


Publisher: Wednesday Books Books
Date: July 5, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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