Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For, by Sara Pascoe, is a children’s book, aimed at the young adult reader (YA), about a teenage girl who is changing and becoming a witch. It covers time travel, history, witchcraft, different world civilisations, diversity, love, friendship, women’s rights and growing up in foster care.
Rachel (also known as Raya) is a 14-year-old girl living in foster care. She wants nothing more than to be loved, in a proper stable family environment and doesn’t feel foster care will give her that so makes the decision to run away to London.
Raya is unaware she is a witch. When things aren’t going well, changing hormones and high emotions she accidentally travels back in time with her cat Oscar to 1645 Essex and the Essex witch trials.
Bryony, Raya’s social worker and also witch mentor, is sent back in time to try and get them home but things go horribly wrong. They are both going to be executed as witches. With time running out they manage to escape, but instead of returning home they end up in Old Istanbul of 1645.
While in Istanbul, Raya’s power start to develop and she becomes a reader of coffee grounds and is able to tell people’s fortunes. This eventually brings her to the attention of the Sultan’s wife and she is invited to the vast luxurious Palace to read her fortune. Unfortunately, the Sultana is power mad and has other ideas for Raya’s unique talents which will change the course of history.
Raya has to travel back in time again to try and save the lives of her friends and is faced with some extremely difficult decisions.
Overall, I found this book to be an excellent read (especially as Raya grew up around the same area of East London as I did so was familiar with places like Barking) and has some excellent themes that the reader can explore.
Raya is desperate for her own independence and soon realises that the fantasy and reality of running away from home are not the same and, quite frankly, life is hard. What she really wants is family and love.
This story is very well-written and the different time travel periods seem well researched, interesting enough to capture and hold the readers attention whilst at the same time not becoming dry and boring like a history text book. It covers themes such as teenage dilemmas, growing up in foster care, tolerance, different cultures, pain, loss, love, morals and change. It has plenty of action and magic to keep teenagers entertained with witches, talking cats and time travel and beautifully described periods of Olde Worlde England, Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire as seen through the eyes of a 21st Century teenager.
Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For is a delightful quirky story, a very entertaining read that deals with some very difficult themes (foster care, family units, fitting in, emotions, running away from home and different cultures) and one I would recommend for children aged 11 years +, young adults, as well as adults that just like a good story.
RRP: £11.99 (Paperback) / £3.99 (Kindle)