Publisher's Note:  

"I used to be one of those girls. The kind who loved to deliver bad news. When I colored my hair, I imagined it seeping into my scalp, black dye pooling into my veins.

But that was the old Lacy. Now, when I cast spells, they are always for good."

16-year-old Lacy believes that magic and science can work side by side. She's a botanist who knows how to harness the healing power of plants. So when her father dies, Lacy tries to stay with her step-mother in Chico, where her magic is good and healing. She fears the darkness that her real mother, Cheyenne, brings out, stripping away everything that is light and kind.

Yet Cheyenne never stays away for long. Beautiful, bewitching, unstable Cheyenne who will stop at nothing, not even black magic, to keep control of her daughter's heart. She forces Lacy to accompany her to Sacramento, and before long, the "old" Lacy starts to resurface.

But when Lacy survives a traumatic encounter, she finds herself faced with a choice. Will she use her powers to exact revenge and spiral into the darkness forever? Or will she find the strength to embrace the light

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic

When My Heart Was Wicked

by Tricia Stirling

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Overall Review:  

Readers who enjoy author Maggie Stiefvator, especially her book The Raven Boys, might enjoy a new author emerging in the young adult literary scene, Tricia Stirling. Stirling's debut novel, When My Heart Was Wicked, intertwines occult magic and contemporary teen drama.

Set in present day California, teen protagonist Lacey Fin narrates the novel, engaging readers in the dark art of supernatural power and her own struggle to find the power to truly be free from her “demented” disposition. She is described to readers as true to her Gemini nature, and therefore two sided--good and evil. Much of the novel is based on Lacey's undertaking to strive for the light and not be taken in by her mother's manic control.


Dark magic is not the only thing Lacey must combat. In her young life she's dealt with much heartbreak and cruelty, mostly on account of her morbid mother. Readers may identify with Lacey's struggle with self-identity, first love and loss, as well as the everyday, typical teen affairs of bullying and fitting in.


The first half of the novel is sincere then abruptly breaks off with perverse and raunchy teen dialogue. Stirling salvages some of the novel with her bewitching description of caliginous dealings. Her feverish intensity to illuminate the macabre, conveys poetic inventiveness and will be a draw for readers.


Not a conventional book to tackle if you're looking for “feel good” fiction, as it contains intense subject matter, but for those who enjoy atypical literature with deeper meaning, When My Heart Was Wicked might just capture your heart.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  10 religious exclamations; 1 mild obscenity; 2 religious profanities; 7 derogatory names; 8 scatological words; 11 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 3 f-word derivatives.


Violence/Gore:  A few scenes (about 2) in which characters playfully punch or pinch one another; character briefly recounts 2 past incidents in which his/her parent was physically abusive; character admits to cutting/self-mutilation as a child; character is accidentally cut with glass shards, blood mentioned; character briefly recollects their parent cutting themselves for an incantation/spell; parent pinches teen child hard; brief report of character's parent making their child stand in their underwear while it rained as punishment; somewhat comical scene, character is hit in the head with a ball; character briefly bites into a dead bird's neck, to use blood in a spell; character briefly recounts how their parent died in an accident, non-graphic; character briefly tells a Greek mythology story that includes a violent death; female character claims her ex-husband was abusive; character draws a morbid picture; brief scene, character intentionally cuts themselves ; character briefly recalls abusive childhood moments; somewhat gory brief scene in which character recalls witnessing their mother have a stillborn birth, then burying the baby, lots a blood mentioned; character threatens another character; character mentions that another character has attempted suicide a few times in the past; character briefly admits to having had an abortion; brief scene, characters struggle with one another, pushing and shoving; creepy extended scene (about a page) character tells another character about a child who was buried alive for a few hours and was never the same after the incident; character recalls their parent setting fire to their apartment, no casualties.


Sex/Nudity:  Character reads an ad where the word “naked” is used; character acknowledges that they are gay; male character kisses females forehead with affection, non-romantic; character briefly tells a Greek mythology story in which nudity is mentioned; character witnesses two teen characters kissing obnoxiously; teen characters hold hands; teen characters kiss each other on the lips and neck, brief but descriptive; the word slut is used a few times (about 5) throughout the book; brief scene, parent tells their teen child to be smart when it comes to sex; extended (about 1 page) male and female characters kiss, male character touches female character in areas normally covered by a bathing suit (descriptive and graphic); extended scene (a few paragraphs) teens talk mentioning sexual references “slept together”, and about their virginity; sexual reference, “he couldn't get it up”; character briefly admits to getting pregnant as a teen.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of a parent, occult magic, mental and physically abusive parent, unstable parent, mental illness, stealing/extortion/blackmail, minor committing acts of self-mutilation/cutting, divorce/separation.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Mention of drunk characters (no details); parent drinks wine; mention that parent works as a bartender; teen admits to smoking cigarettes at the age of 13, this is mentioned a few times (around 5) throughout the novel; minors drink wine; character tries to overdose on Xanax and alcohol; parent encourages their child to drink wine and get drunk together.

Reviewed By MaryLou
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