The LaZelle family of southern California has a secret: they can do magic. Real magic. As a teenager, a LaZelle undergoes "the Transition"--a severe illness that will either kill him or leave him with magical powers. If he's lucky, he gains a talent like shape-changing or wish-granting. If he's unlucky, he never experiences Transition. If he's especially unlucky, he undergoes Transition late, which increases his chances of dying. And if he survives, he will bear the burden of a dark, dangerous magic: the ability to cast only curses. And curse he must, for when a LaZelle doesn't use his magic, it kills him.
In Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Fistful of Sky, Gypsum LaZelle is unique among her brothers and sisters: she has not undergone Transition. She resigns herself to a mundane, magic-bereft existence as a college student. Then one weekend, when her family leaves her home alone, she becomes gravely ill... --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Stoker winner Hoffman attains a new level of maturity and complexity with this coming-of-age contemporary fantasy. Unlike her charismatic, beautiful mother and her four remarkable siblings, Gypsum, the middle daughter of the magical LaZelle family of Southern California, is a misfit who hasn't "transitioned" during adolescence into her special gifts and powers. Instead, she takes after her perfectly normal father. Intelligent, resourceful and caring, Gyp deals with her lack of magic by growing into a self-effacing, low-profile but still greatly beloved member of the family. Then suddenly at age 20, Gyp attains her gift, the "unkind" power of curses. Gyp's struggles to deal with her newfound dark power are emotional, frightening and hilarious. By the story's end we've had to confront, just as the LaZelles do, that even members of the most wonderful, loving, close-knit families in the world can innocently inflict considerable damage on each other. While making the story both humorous and enlightening, Hoffman never allows the reader to forget this is also a scary situation for her group of exceptionally well-developed characters. The lyrical writing flows at a perfect pace and is as engaging as the characters. With its themes of family, magic, love and healing, the novel may appeal more to women and adolescents than men, while its ending may be a bit too touchy-feely New Age for some. But the sense of wonder, lack of cynicism and sheer craft compare to vintage Ray Bradbury.awards.
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