The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.
After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved everything about this book. I loved the writing, I loved the themes, I loved the puzzles and codes, I loved the magic, I loved the characters, I loved the friendship. It just made me feel so gosh darned GOOD.
Neil Patrick Harris is the spiritual successor to Lemony Snicket. He has mastered the light-hearted slightly-snarky writing style that feels so whimsical and fun, he has nailed writing a modern book that could be set whenever in time and wherever in place, and he has presented children that are smart and capable. In addition, his unabashed love for magic shines through the book, which comes complete with step-by-step guides for simple magic tricks and several codes for the reader to decipher.
The Magic Misfits has exactly the sort of found-family squad-goals vibes you would expect from a book titled The Magic Misfits with a drawing of six kids on the front. I adored the way Carter discovers friends for the first time in his life. It felt so hopeful, but not over-the-top. This is exactly the kind of things kids in the middle-grade years are starting to discover. It was so nice to see that presented in a positive way, with his fears being validated but his heart never squashed. It’s a big part of the reason the book feels so good. And the ending is just SO FLIPPIN’ SWEET.
The plot and villains are so exaggerated in their dasterdliness, but instead of coming off cliche it was adorable and fun. I think Harris is well positioned to write a good obviously-despicable villain without being bland because of his vast body of work portraying them, and he really nailed it. Everything was just over-the-top enough to feel fun, and it never takes it too far.
Representation is on-point. While the main character, Carter, is a white blonde boy, he’s so obviously a young NPH that I, for one, am willing to not be upset about it. But the rest of his crew is diverse while avoiding tokenism. And the small town is delightfully free of prejudice. The Misfits are laughed at not because of their skin color or wheel chair, but because they always wear a tuxedo or are too smart for their own good. And Leila’s just like, “yeah I have two dads, shrug” and nobody ever mentions that it might be weird or bad or anything. Mineral Wells is the antithesis of any small town I’ve ever been to: accepting, diverse, and charming.
Finally, the illustrations were charming and adorable and added just the right touch to the book. Excellent work Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hinton!
I highly recommend this book to any young person. It’s fun, charming, and makes you feel good. I loved it so much and I think they will too. I can’t wait to read more in this series!