When My Heart Was Wicked
Written by Tricia Stirling
Published by Scholastic on February 24, 2015
192 pages (paperback)
I will admit, I judged a book by its cover.
The means by which I choose this book were simple; I will admit my first reason was the cover. The artwork was stunning and I hoped that it represented the story within. I read though the jacket, amused by the description for this young adult novel (loss of parents, good healing magic and bad poisonous magic) and delighted to discover that the story also takes place in Chico, California, north of my home town of Sacramento. I enjoy stories that I can relate to locations, easy to picture in my head. Curious to see what traumatic encounter would cause such a battle for this 16-year-old soul, I decided to dive into the book.
Lacy Fin’s parents divorced when she was young. She lived with her mother and had a troubled childhood due to Cheyenne’s personal issues which affected Lacy; she rebelled, stole, cut school — and herself. Lacy moved from Sacramento north to Chico to live with her father and his wife, Anna, after becoming abandoned by her mother. Within a few years, she cleaned herself up with the positive influences in her life until she lost her father to cancer. Cheyenne returned to collect Lacy. She kept herself walled up from her mother based on the experiences she had growing up even though Cheyenne tries to impress her. Drawing on her zodiac sign as a Gemini, she is torn between her two sides, the charming, lively girl from Chico and the superficial, cunning girl she was in Sacramento. She resists the dark feelings until an incident with a boy at school. Distraught, Lacy turns back to her dark side and dark magic.
Stirling wrote this in short chapters with segments that are broken up. A few paragraphs of current events, a few paragraphs of any memories triggered by the present. It keeps the reader from becoming stuck in a stale story line. It is in the pieces that we learn more about Cheyenne’s and Anna’s involvement in magic, in addition to the ways magic is used by Lacy’s two personalities. The group of people Anna associates with are what Lacy call “Treehuggers”, living off the land and celebrating pagan holidays. Anna says magic is everywhere and teaches Lacy to see it in nature and creatures, until her father dies, after which it disappears for her. The dark magic she learns from Cheyenne. She uses the lives of others to heal, uses them to fuel a binding spell, uses them to protect others from someone’s evil. What Lucy does not expect to learn is how that same protective spell can also hurt the person it is used on.
The characters were written well and as much as I enjoyed the style, I did feel there were points where the story needed more length. I understand this is a young adult book, therefore there will be a depth missing for myself as an adult. The complexity of the lead females is good for the adolescent reader. It is enough to have them critically think about what makes these women tick without too much difficulty.
Stirling uses science terms and how herbs are used in magical spells to add some complexity to the story; however, in the end this is simply a tale about a mother and daughter, and I do feel the story was predictable: the struggle of a teenage girl trying to develop her own split personality with the influences of her dark odd mother and her light stepmother’s.
In the end, there is that understanding: Cheyenne may be Lacy’s mother and they will always love each other, but they need to be realistic about how to maintain that relationship, have trust, and have respect each other’s powers with magic, which scares them.
As an adult, I find I would enjoy a story of just Cheyenne and her own personal demons. Maybe the same with Anna, looking at how they counter-act each other. However, as a book for a young adult, it is engaging enough, tip-toeing the line with a deeper depth to have the reader think about the balance between good and bad, and how actions and experiences can change a person for better or worse.
On a final note, I do believe the cover represents the ideas in the book: the calm and the chaos.