Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Synopsis: Hungry to inhabit his true self, Bridger Whitt will do anything to find a job to help him finance attending college out of state. He’s desperate enough to take a Craigslist interview with a weird entrance exam… no, a seriously weird entrance exam, as in, “Will you enter the office via the window?” He’s determined enough to ignore any… little oddities about his magically-everywhere boss (exactly what was Pavel doing out at Lake Michigan when Bridger was there and just happened to be being drowned… by… Things with sharp teeth and cheerfully malicious expressions?!), and has almost entirely tuned out the disembodied voices he sometimes hears around the office. Despite discovering his boss’s true identity, regardless of learning that his crush, Leo, may actually crush on him right back, despite all signs lining up for a HEA, Bridger still can’t find a reason to stay home. After all, there’s nothing to do, and nowhere to grow in the provincial, conservative small town of Midden, Michigan. You can only discover what’s real, if you go away and pursue it. Real life can only be magical elsewhere… right?
Observations: Truly, there’s no place like home – and this novel brings that theme fresh life, by examining the presupposition that a.) our high school and college years are The Best Years of Our Lives (TM), and b.) that those Best Years can only happen well away from the familiar, known, and loved. This book talks about coming out and Becoming in a way which allows it to be a process that happens internally, and externally, with constant course corrections and revelations along the way. The romance, while not central to the plot, is just squeezable.
However swoon-worthy the romance is, however, what I most appreciate is how much this is a family story. In the best and most inclusive, expansive of ways, F.T. Lukens reminds us that family CAN mean a long-suffering mother who works her butt off for you, and is hopeful she’s making up for you not having a Dad, but also it can additionally mean a tough-as-nails Harriet-the-Spy type who loves you, spies on you, then kicks your butt for keeping secrets – like the sister you never knew you needed, a boss and a mentor who both challenges you to rise up, but holds you as you fall apart, and pixies who cheer for you in tiny, tinny, high-pitched, annoying voices, but come on, at least they’re not laughing while unicorns try to kill you this week. Or, whatever.
With endless dry humor and plenty of quirky charm, this book never tries too hard, or goes for the easy laugh. It removes itself from some of the stereotype of YA lit with a tight, loving relationship between teen and parent, and allows older people and younger people the respectful, reliant relationships they sometimes have in real life. And the humor just gives the difficulties and subtleties Bridger has while navigating the real world even more life. There’s magic. There’s mythos. There’s a really cranky Sasquatch. While the novel is YA in spirit, it also crosses over for to be enjoyable for other ages, and could be appropriate for adults through older middle grade. While Bridger is definitely moving along toward adulthood – but this doesn’t mean he’s making all adult decisions – definitely not in the thriving metropolis that is… Midden(and I can’t even tell you how much I love that name).
Conclusion:F.T. Lukens brings a joyfully charming innocence into this endearing adventure of a snarky, fearful boy who thinks he is fleeing toward the big, real world — when THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS & MAGIC reveal that there is more wonder, magic, love, — and terrifying unicorns — in the known world he knows than he could have ever imagined. While I try to review without bias, this was one of my all-time FAVORITE Cybils books of 2018, I have zero chill discussing it, and I want you to read it, too.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of Duet Books, for the Cybils Awards, for which this book was a finalist. You can find THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC by F.T. Lukens at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!