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BOOK REVIEW: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

| 1 August 2015 | 1 Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

May 2015
Paperback, $19.99 AUD/Audio book $24.99 USD
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. She is the only one diagnosed with this particular affliction, which is why they named it Azaray Syndrome, and no one has the first clue of how to treat it.

Sometimes also what-about-faith-healers-what-about-herbs-what-about-crystals-what-about-yoga? Have you tried yoga, Aza, I mean have you, because it helped this friend of a friend who was supposedly dying but didn’t, due to downward dog?
No. I haven’t tried yoga to cure my thing, because yoga isn’t going to cure my thing. My thing is a Mystery and not just a Mystery, but Bermuda — no sun, only Triangle.

All the doctors can do is give her drugs and hope they keep her alive. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of the medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

“The sailor drowned,” he says.
I meet his eyes.
“In the air. He drowned in the air. So, keep telling me about the ‘not-relevant’ situation. You haven’t been drowning for sixteen years in air or anything.”
I feel shivery. There’s something stressfully specific about that anchor story.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. The sickness catches up with her.

Aza is lost to our world. And found, by another.

But Jason’s not going to let her go that easily. He made a promise to find her, and he always comes through for Aza.

So, back to me showing up at her birthday party when we were five, thinking my Halloween costume would make me invisible. It kind of did. I walked a mile, this really small alligator by the side of the road, and nobody busted me. I was on a mission.



The idea, voice, and sense of humour in this novel are all fantastic, making it hard to put down. It could have done with a little more in terms of world building when it came to the Magonian society, but, as far as a first person narrator knowing only what the Magonians told her, it made sense.

This is another novel that blends the real world (illness, and dying, and complicated feelings about your friends during high-school) with the fantastical (ships in the sky, birds in people’s chests, and bird people looking after the people like Aza who can only breathe Magonian air) and becomes more than either part could ever be alone.

With regards to the audio book, the actors did a great job of drawing the listener in, and this listener/reader/reviewer found herself in tears or with a goofy grin on her face more times than she would care to admit.

You’ll fall in love with Aza, with her snarky sense of humour and her reluctance to give up; and Jason, with his obsessive compulsive, Aza loving, alligator costume wearing ways. This is a book full of complex relationships and entertaining and realistic characters, and I’ll be snapping up anything else written by Headley.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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