The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, 224 pp, RL 4
Originally reviewed on October 30, 2017
Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag is the story of Aster, a boy growing up in a magical community where power (but not necessarily ability and talent) is divided along gender lines. Boys, "grow up to be shapeshifters; girls into witches. No exceptions." Aster finds himself impossibly drawn to witchcraft, secretly observing the lessons his Aunt Vervain gives to the girls while facing bullying from the boys, who are beginning to discover their animal spirits. When one of the boys goes missing during shapeshifting practice, Aster believes he can find him - using witchery.
As Aster struggles with his passion for witchery and the idea of breaking a longstanding tradition, he learns a dark family secret while also making friends with someone outside his community, Charlie. Charlie is laid up with a broken leg, forced to shoot hoops from her seat in a lawn chair in the driveway. Recognizing that there is something different about Aster, she is very accepting and interested in his world. Ostertag does a superb job building Aster's world and making its existence alongside our world completely believable.
The dark family secret that Aster learns about is also part of the reason that this strict tradition about shapeshifting and witchery exists and also what is behind the disappearances of the boys. With Charlie's help, and even a bit of guidance from his grandmother, Aster finds a way to rescue the lost boys and fight the powerful force behind their disappearances. Witch Boy is definitely a parable about gender conformity that some young readers will recognize. As an adult reader, this aspect of the story, along with the effortless diversity of the characters in the book are what impressed me most about this debut work from Ostertag. However, the fantastic world she created and story she spun within it are a very close second. Witch Boy is an awesome graphic novel that is immediately engrossing and leaves you wanting more.
Book 2 is out now, Book 3 is coming in November, 2019
Source: Review Copy