Thursday, 30 March 2017 / 6 Comments

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

Title: The Secret Science of Magic
Author: Melissa Keil
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Date of Publication: April 1st 2017
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher


The unsolvable problem: If Sophia is a genius, why can’t she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Fact: Sophia is smart. As in, certified-child-prodigy, breezing-through-uni-subjects-even-though-she’s-only-in-year-twelve smart. This terrifies her, because geniuses have a tendency to end up as recluses and weirdos – and with her current social ineptness, she’s halfway there already. 

Truth: Joshua is good at magic tricks, ignoring most things about year twelve, and not thinking at all about life after high school. 

Fact: Sophia can’t even talk to her best friend Elsie about her anxieties, because Elsie is firmly focused on her own future – and on plans that will mean leaving Sophia behind. 

Truth: Joshua has had a secret crush on Sophia since forever, but he doesn’t have forever to act on it. 

Fact: There are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for … and the messiness of the real world is one of them.

Truth: Timing is everything. 


This is a really beautiful book and you should go read it.

Oh, you want more than that? Okay.

Sophia is a bonafide genius. A maths prodigy who is aiming to solve one of those unsolvable equations, her eidetic (photographic) memory means she has always excelled in school. But that doesn't mean that things are easy for her. She struggles with crippling anxiety about the future, and ending up a has been before she's even started.

Joshua loves magic, and Sophia. As the end of school approaches, he's running out of time to let Sophia know how he feels. What to do after school finishes is the last thing on his mind.

Both Joshua and Sophia stole my heart. Sophia had many traits consistent with an ASD, but she doesn't have a diagnosis. She is really struggling with the end of school transition and a pretty bad case of impostor syndrome. Yes, she's pretty good at maths, but what does that mean if she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life? Her best friend, Elsie, has always been a bit of a buffer between her and the world, supporting Sophia in her avoidance of parties, and social situations in general, but Elsie is planning on going to uni overseas, and she's worried about how Sophia will cope without her.

Joshua is sure that the time is right to let Sophia know how he feels. His friends at the market he works at on weekends don't believe he'll ever do it, and their advice on love and relationships seriously differs in quality. His sister is full of adolescent attitude, but their relationship is really beautiful.

Family is a big part of the book. Sophia's brother is distant, and her parents don't seem to know how to connect with her, but Elsie's big family have taken her into their fold and accept her as she is. Joshua's family is warm and involved, but he doesn't appreciate his dad constantly asking about his plans for the following year.

Sophia and Joshua's friendship develops slowly and tentatively, and all isn't smooth sailing, but they are just so adorable together. There is one scene in particular (involving lights and the performing arts centre - you'll know it when you see it) that made me want to cheer out loud.

I also loved Sophia's relationship with Elsie. It's obvious that Elsie has been a good and loyal friend to Sophia, but she's getting frustrated at what she feels is quite a one sided arrangement. I felt so much empathy for Elsie.

Just as a final note, I loved that Sophia was from a Sri Lankan family, and Elsie's family is Indian. We need Australian books with main characters from different racial, cultural and socioeconomic groups. More please!

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  1. I love love loved this one so much too Nic. Sophia especially. Her anxiety was so wonderfully portrayed as well and I really appreciated how Joshua allowed her to set the parameters of their friendship and relationship, knowing it was important for Sophia to remain in control of her social environment. Melissa Keil is just incredible. Brilliant review Nic, loved it! <3 <3

    1. Yes! There was no sense that he could "cure" or "fix" her, he was able to let her be her, which I really liked.

      Something else I forgot to put in the review, is the idea that even if you're one of the "freaks" at school, and you struggle to find your tribe, they are out there and you will find them. Joshua found his through magic and work, and there's a real sense that Sophia will find hers too and it will be okay.

  2. Ahh I have this to read soon! I need to get onto it now that I've finished my mini reading-hiatus. And also I'm ridiculously pleased that Sophie has possibly ASD, because books need more girl-rep for that. I'm already doubly excited for it now. *flails* Also SO glad there's cultural diversity too. Squee!!

    1. I am very keen to build a collection of books featuring ASD girls. If you have any recs, please pass them my way :)

    2. Have you read Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim? It's actually a memoir but it is SO helpful and amazing and #ownvoices. I also really loved Queen of Geeks by Jen Wilde which comes out soon because it's so accurate. 😍

    3. I haven't read either of them yet, but Queen of Geeks is on my list. I'll add the other as well. Thank you!


Have you read this book or any other good books lately? If so let me know what you think...



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