by Kristi Cook
Realistic, stand-alone book
Reading level: 8th grade and up
Reviewed by Patrick Castro, grade 11
I honestly really enjoyed Magnolia by Kristi Cook from beginning to end! There was something about the characters to the survival-love aspect that had me hooked, and I'm pretty impressed Kristi managed to create a good realistic fiction book (since her previous books were paranormal). Definitely give this one a try!
What struck me about Magnolia that I really admired was the flow and ease of the plot and characters. Jemma McCafferty lives in Mississippi, where they have tons of storms every year. As she tries to find who she is and what she plans to do with her life, she doesn't know a storm will bring her even closer to her best childhood friend, Ryder. I felt the beginning of the book to be a little cliche. You know that best friend love romance stuff? That was here, but Cook brings her own take by adding a storm and I really enjoyed it. Magnolia was moving and it had me turning the pages to see how Jemma faced all things happening to her family and also her heart. The characters are warm and did feel real and the plot was great!
Magnolia could have been more complex, if Kristi gave Jemma the chance to get to know Patrick, the boy to whom she seems attracted. It felt like some things were rushed and some of the decisions of the characters were a throw. But Magnolia shines with Cook's simple writing alongside her warm characters, and I applaud her for moving away from the paranormal genre to try something else!
Magnolia was a great summer book, but you can definitely read it any time. The characters hit home, and you'll be wrapped up in a warm, bittersweet story!