Just Like Magic

by Sarah Hogle

Bettie used to be a popular and successful internet influencer but has fallen on hard times. She is squatting in a dead woman’s abandoned ramshackle house near her rich and famous family’s home in Colorado. She bemoans that the woman only had a 24” TV, but will only drink Evian water because she “is not a plebe.” She is shallow, materialistic, and steals her neighbors’ Wifi signal and their electricity. Due to her poor decision-making and bad advice, she is a laughingstock on social media and flat broke to boot. Or I should say she was a laughingstock. Nowadays “Even my unpopularity isn’t popular anymore.” Most people think she is dead or in rehab when they think about her, which is never.

It’s Christmas and Bettie is dreading the family get-together where she will have to pretend to still be wealthy and successful. And what is she going to do for Christmas presents? One night, while drunk, she conjures up Hal, who is “The Holiday Spirit” personified by (somehow) playing Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” backwards on vinyl. Hal is nice and pure, “a glowing unicorn untainted by all that is crass and vulgar.” His mission is to restore Bettie’s Christmas spirit by granting her every wish as long as, among other caveats, it is not damaging to history or cause harm to others. He is also very attractive. So far so good. I like a good redemption story and an unconventional hero.

Unfortunately, things started to go awry pretty quickly and I gave up at about the 25% mark. I skimmed through to the end. I made it past the Water Buffalo she wished into an enemy’s 4th floor Chelsea apartment building. And Hal explaining that the “number one most forbidden wish” would be to bring back the McRib when it isn’t in season. I think I started to realize I was probably going to DNF this when Bettie and Hal teleport to her grandparents’ “small gothic castle” her sinuses are filled with ice-cold eggnog and the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” becomes stuck in her head. These are the two side effects of teleportation, you see. I tried to give it another chance, but the incessant zaniness was exhausting. I can deal with wacky and eccentric in small doses but not unremittingly. It was contrived and disingenuous.

Sarah Hogle has an appealing narrative voice, which kept me reading her You Deserve Each Other despite my initial contempt for the heroine. But this one did not redeem itself although thankfully***spoiler alert*** the heroine did. Kooky is not always funny or interesting and, for me, it got old fast.

Thank-You to Net Galley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Sorry.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

March 21, 2022

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