In the second chapter of So You Want to Be a Wizard, Kit and Nita find solace in Fred, who provides Nita with some form of revenge. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of bullying, abuse.
Oh, y’all, this is such a treat. No one is surprised that I am utterly entertained by the chance to watch a bully get upstaged. NO ONE IS SURPRISED. SO LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS HERE.
Duane strikes a totally fascinating balance for Nita’s family:
It wasn’t that either of them precisely hated going home, even under these circumstances. Their family lives were fairly tolerable, and as they got around to discussing such things, it turned out that they both got around well enough with their parents and their sister or sisters (Kit, as it turned out, had two).
While this is where my own story diverges from Nita’s and Kit’s, I thought this was actually an intriguing character decision. She doesn’t dislike her family at all, but there’s still that awkward sense of conflict present that’s indicative of her growing sense of independence. She wants her own life, which doesn’t mean she despises Dairene for being nosy, nor does it mean her parents aren’t understanding or that they smother her. There’s still conflict, and it’s natural for her to feel that way! This coincides with her discover of So You Want to Be a Wizard?, and I think that’s an intentional thing that Duane does. Nita is entering a world of young adulthood, where things will get confusing, chaotic, scary, and enlightening all at once, and I believe I just described becoming a wizard, too. Right??? So there’s a metaphorical story unfolding here that’s also literal for Nita. It just so happens that they’re parallel.
Late Night Shenanigans
I’m really curious how many of you did variations of what Nita does in the first half of this chapter. I am nearsighted almost entirely because around age eight, I used to take a tiny, battery-powered flashlight to bed with me. I’d make a pathetic little fort/tent out of pillows and my long, gangly legs, and I’d read. The summer before I turned nine, the Goosebumps books started coming out, and as a huge fan of The Twilight Zone, I began to gobble them up each month as they came out. I read the entire Edgar Allan Poe collection my mother got by the time I turned nine, and most of it was during those late nights when I was supposed to be sleeping.
It was a rebellion of mine. I had a seven p.m. bedtime until I was fourteen years old, and a couple things necessitated my mother changing that. While we were allowed to stay up Friday nights for The X-Files (later changed to Sunday when the show switched airing nights in the fourth season), I otherwise had to come straight home from school in order to have enough time to get all my homework down. My bedtime got changed to eight p.m. my freshman year, not because I’d gotten older or deserved a little more freedom. No, it was because I could not finish all my homework before seven.
So I stayed up late, quietly, secretly, subversively. After I read every book in my house, cover-to-cover, I found that I could stuff my tiny transistor radio under my pillow and listen to all the music I was banned from experiencing. I’d stay up late to listen to Love Line on KROQ, or I’d wait until Ska Parade came on KUCI, or I’d listen to countdowns late at night. I credit a great deal of my musical taste to those nights, where I was introduced to Garbage and No Doubt and Marilyn Manson and then, when some of the more underground DJs took over, a great deal of the hardcore, metal, and thrash I still adore. I’d pop over to Power 106, and that’s how I found out about Tupac and MC Lyte and A Tribe Called Quest. (RIP Phife Dawg. He passed away the day that I wrote this review.) I became obsessed with En Vogue and Boyz II Men because of one of the R&B stations we used to get.
I got caught a few times when I wasn’t careful, but it was worth the risk. I hid under those covers and discovered an entire world I wasn’t allowed to be a part of. I learned about homosexuality from Love Line in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was going to hell. And look, this wasn’t something that felt important later. I knew at the time that these acts were saving my life. I was more and more aware of how badly I was being treated at home, and every new song, every new discussion about love and sex and relationships, every new chapter I read, was another weapon in my arsenal. It was another chink in the armor constructed around me without my consent. When it all came crashing down the second week of my junior year of high school, I never forgot what reading and music did for me. And I never forgot about how great those nights were for me. Even if I felt trapped, those words – written or sung – helped set me free.
Look, y’all, I CAN’T HELP WHAT THIS BOOK IS MAKING ME FEEL.
So, let’s talk about two more things here. First, THE MANUAL:
They were teleconferencing using the manual’s native comms management routines…
WHICH IS AMAZING, it’s like magical Facetime. I do think this and a few other details revealed about the manual feel like they come out of nowhere, though. Duane is referencing something that, up to this point, I had never heard of. What is the “native comms management routines”? What do they do? Can you communicate to any wizard through them? I understand that all the worldbuilding can’t be revealed at once, but this was the first time I felt like I’d actually missed something.
A small little gripe, but one that’s ultimately inconsequential. It’s utterly destroyed by the beauty of the Fred. I know I’m repeating myself a million times here, but I love power fantasies surrounding bullying. I so dearly wish I’d had a Fred around who could not only get all the things back that were stolen from me, but could make my bullies feel like fools. But the most touching part of this is that Fred, unknowingly, allows Nita to feel brave enough to face the person who torments her. For me, that’s the best thing here because it’s something Fred couldn’t do for her. She still had to demand her property back all on her own.
And she did it.
AND FRED THEN SPENT THE REST OF THE DAY RANDOMLY “EMITTING” OBJECTS ALL OVER THE FIELD. HOW IS THIS BOOK REAL. IT’S SO WEIRD AND HILARIOUS AND I LOVE IT. Lumber! LUMBER!!! Oh my god, bless you, Fred.
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– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
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