I found this on the New Books shelf at my library on Friday, and after checking to see what sort of book it was I decided to grab it before anyone else could get it and read it immediately. I finished on Saturday and WOW! I love it. It's long, but it's totally worth it.
The book as a whole is sweetly awkward, quirky, and fun-in-a-slightly-dark way (like a clown crying while telling jokes, for example). Some parts remind me a lot of my own high school (and middle school) experiences, which is probably why I identified with Andromeda so much-- she could be an alternate me, and Daisy could be an alternate version of my best friend from that time. It was a little bit spooky, but mostly it was very cool.
I really liked Andromeda (not just because she's an alternate me). Even when she's acting crazy and ridiculous, mostly regarding boys and how she lets people treat her (read: like a doormat), I was interested in her life and what she was going to do next. I loved how she treated books like sacred things, and how she wanted to save the best books from being discarded from the library where she works. I also was really interested in how she preferred the more traditional sorts of occultism and shunned the more New Age, fluffier magic; it was very refreshing since so many new books seem to have only the Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-Wicca-magic-thing and I hate that. It's nice to see a character actually do something different from that for once, and as a bonus Andromeda doesn't even call herself a witch (she's an "occultist") nor does she cut herself and recite depressing poems to the moon (um, for example).
Andromeda is refreshing in a non-occult way as well. Many times did I giggle when she misheard someone: "vacuum" for "bathroom," "Sylvester Mouse" for "some extra hours," and so on. And I liked how she'd say that the person meant to say "pagan" but said "bacon" instead, like it was their fault and not her hearing. She's quirky and funny while not being over the top and, yeah, I really liked her. The other characters were sort of negligible, and I still don't have any idea what the heck is up with her parents and I have no idea how Andromeda managed to stay with them for so long when they're NUTS. Some of the secondary characters are better than others, but the book is really about Andromeda and so I tended only to care about them in relation to her life.
The book itself does move sort of slow, I suppose, but I didn't mind as I was too busy being proud that Andromeda knew so much about the occult when she was so young, enough to rattle off names and dates and numbers and so on when I can't even remember what I ate for lunch last Monday. It was much like watching my kid brother in a quiz bowl beating out the competition because he knew who the 15th President of the US was, or something. And since I was interested in the occult as a kid I actually recognized and understood most of it (though I never managed to make it through any of the actual books Andromeda talks about. Too boring for a 12 year old.) but I don't think you need to be an occultist yourself to get it. Pretty much everything is explained, so I'm sure no one would be left behind or get frustrated, and then, instead of focusing on the little stuff (like Hebrew letters) you can focus on the plot and how it ends up working out so satisfyingly! I love satisfying endings.
The events in Andromeda Klein can be interpreted in two ways: either she really is doing magic or she's projecting things out of her psyche in some Freudian, psychological way that I don't care to learn about because it's boring (no offense to psychologists). I choose to go with she really was doing magic and she wasn't projecting, though I admit it's a little interesting to consider it the other way-- it gives the book a whole different feeling, as well. But, yeah, I like the urban-bordering-on-fantasy way best. It's more fun.
I couldn't help but think of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Headless Cupid, one of my favorite books, and it does very much feel like that book but set in a different time/place/situation. It was sort of comforting, too, I suppose because I love The Headless Cupid so much. (It also reminded me of Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon, another favorite book of mine. Not that Keeping the Moon has any magic in it; it's the characters and how they act/talk that triggered the reminding.)
If you haven't got your own copy already, get one NOW. It's worth it.