Saturday, January 03, 2015

Book Review - Forcing the Ace

As a kid, when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up," one of my answers was always "Magician." I had a collection of books on magic, magic props and often performed magic tricks in my elementary class talent shows. My goal never came to fruition but it did make the premise of Forcing the Ace appealing to me.

In Forcing the Ace, we follow the life of Alex, a teenage boy with aspirations of becoming a professional magician. He has significant enthusiasm and talent for magic but has less devotion or skills for the other elements in his life, particularly his schoolwork, much to the chagrin of his surgeon father.

In the first chapter of the book, Alex is performing in a local magic show with the hope of attracting the attention of a sponsor for a professional magician competition. Unfortunately, his act ends with a significant injury to his hand and it looks like his hopes for the prestigious competition are shattered. His luck changes when he is noticed by Jack, a retired magician who tells Alex that he'll sponsor him but only if he pairs up with Zoe, another teenage magician from the town. Alex has always been a solo act and has no desire to share the glory with anyone but he reluctantly agrees and they begin training.

Jack, Alex and Zoe make an intriguing trio as they try to work together to come up with an award winning act while also trying to figure out one another. Each of the three has their own baggage and prejudices but they also have fun motivations which make for some interesting scenes.

Clocking in at just over 150 pages, this short novel doesn't have a lot of time for in-depth character or plot development. Still, I was hoping for a bit more. A lot of the characters and scenes felt a little flat or forced while others seemed obligatory or predictable. I especially had a hard time truly liking or rooting for Alex as a character. His goal was intriguing to me but his character and actions felt unbalanced and sometimes contradicted one another. Part of this I could chalk up to the unpredictability and inconsistency of teenagers working out their emotions. Other times it felt like his actions were created to further the desired story arc even though they didn't feel entirely realistic or genuine given the situation.

In spite of the points that felt a little choppy or less fleshed out, I did enjoy the general premise of the story. Had it been a longer book I think I would have demanded more cohesion but for its size I was able to work through the story even though I wanted more. To some extent, this felt like an "after school special" complete with some of the expected tropes and morals.

In the end, I did enjoy the book and would be willing to look out future work by this author to see if there is more depth. For a middle grade reader this simple read and fun story would be a fun way to spend an afternoon or two and the reader may even inadvertently learn a thing or two about life and relationships.

3 out of 5 stars

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Brian Miller said...

eh the cohesion problems probably would keep me away unless i picked it up at the library....

hey my son just finished hunger games...we have read LOTR and the hobbit...we read harry potter and riordan...i dont think he is ready for divergent any suggestions on a good series?

Okie said...

He might enjoy the Ranger's Apprentice series. Both of my boys really liked that. It's definitely lighter than LOTR but still engaging and fun.

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