Like a Charm (ARC Review)

Book Title: Like a Charm
Author: Elle McNicoll
Release Date: October 10, 2023
Genres: Middle Grade, Magical Realism, Fantasy, Neurodiversity
My rating: 4/5 Stars


After the death of her grandfather, neurodivergent tween Ramya uncovers a world of mystery and magic–and she’s the only one who can see it! From the award-winning author of A Kind of Spark.

“Ramya, you have something this city needs. And it’s something that’s going to change everything.”

Ramya Knox always knew she was different. Her dyspraxia makes her clumsy and prone to attracting the disapproval of her teachers. Ramya didn’t know she can see magic! But when a dog statue comes to life, Ramya follows the pup and discovers a world she thought existed only in fairy tales.

Trolls, witches, kelpies, vampires, and more lurk in the shadows of Edinburgh, hiding from the most dangerous creature of all: sirens. These beautiful monsters use their persuasive voice to convince those around them to do their bidding–for better or worse. As the sirens rise in power, it’s up to Ramya to save the day–or the Hidden and mortal worlds might both be at risk.

My Review:

Elle McNicoll is a champion writer for middle grade readers when it comes to disability representation. Every book I’ve read by her has excellently broken their respective topics into easily understandable parts for young readers, and this is so important! Too many kids have grown up not even knowing anything about autism, dyslexia, ADHD, or dyspraxia, beyond what the media has shown us (which, is not much and is also incredibly stereotypical). This can lead to stigmatization and isolation of disabled people, which is why it’s vital that we discuss disabilities with kids at a young age. It not only helps to educate able-bodied kids, but it also creates a space for disabled kids to relate to those like them. This is why books like Elle McNicoll’s are so crucial for young readers, and why I’m endlessly thankful for her stories, and constantly wishing I’d had anything like them when I was younger. 

Now that my mini essay is over though, let’s get into the review! Like a Charm is the third book I’ve read by Elle McNicoll, this time following a young, headstrong, dyspraxic main character named Ramya, who learns the world is far from ordinary when she discovers she can see past the “Glamours” of magical creatures after she attends her grandfather’s funeral. This kickstarts a whirlwind of a journey as she and her cousin work together to correct the old myths about the magical creatures living in Edinburgh. 

Something I really enjoyed about Like a Charm is the fact that the reason Ramya can see past Glamours is because of her neurodivergence. It celebrates the beauty of being different, instead of repeating the stigmatized narrative that disabled people are “burdens” or “unintelligent,” which is just not true. Since Ramya has dyspraxia, she’s constantly being told that she’s not capable of certain things, and is made to feel different because of it. This is a reality many disabled people face daily, but the only reason we’re “not capable,” (according to them), is because they refuse to accommodate our needs. 

Ramya embraces her differences in Like a Charm, and learns not to judge others for their differences either. At first, she has her own biases against magical creatures, but as she realizes later in the story, if “you’ve met one magical creature, you’ve met one magical creature.” As an autistic person, I hear this a lot in the community in reference to autistic and neurodivergent people, so I absolutely love that McNicoll included it in this context. Everyone is going to be different, and it’s unfair and harmful to judge a person because of someone else. 

The use of disability education and advocacy in a magical realism setting really brought home the point McNicoll was making. The messages in the book were crystal clear, while never taking away from the excitement and magic of the plot. 

This book truly was a magical read, and I loved it. I am just so thankful that young readers have books like these, and I can’t wait to see what Elle McNicoll writes next. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Order it at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Audible

Check out my last blog post: System Overload (Tour Post & Review)