Amy Goodnight has grown up in a family of witches. Each Goodnight has her own special talent, but due to a childhood trauma, Amy tries to stay away from magic as much as possible. Instead, she has appointed herself the family guardian; the one who cleans up the magical messes and tries to keep the judgmental outside world from finding out too much about her unusual clan. This is easy enough in her hometown of Austin, which has its share of weirdos, but when Amy agrees to take care of her kooky Aunt Hyacinth’s farm during the summer before she leaves for college, she gets a lot more then she bargained for. There are tree-climbing goats, old skeletons (both literally and metaphorically) popping up, legendary ghosts allegedly conking people on the backs of their heads, a nefarious plan or two, and the surly, uptight cowboy next door that keeps clashing with Amy.
There’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about Texas Gothic (Delacorte Press 2011), but Rosemary Clement-Moore does a good job of taking all those familiar elements — ranch life, paranormal magic and ghost stories, YA romance and mystery — and blending them together to create an interesting and appealing story.
Amy is a great, recognizable main character. I think that Amy could have come across as a humorless martyr, but the author does a good job of making the reader feel the weight of Amy’s burdens and understand why she has them, but also showing her spunk. This is mainly shown through her interactions with her genius sister, Phin. Phin has that Sheldon Cooper quality were she’s obsessed with figuring out how the (magical) world works through science, but doesn’t really know or care about how people interact in the real world. I loved Phin, but I definitely shared Amy’s frustration with Phin’s inability to understand why going off about magical doodads to the local cops is not such a great idea.
And I’m soooo glad that it’s never revealed that Amy is the most powerful witch that ever witched. I get why the “most super-special thing that ever specialed” is a popular YA trope, but I’m sick of it. Yes, Amy has a talent, but so does everyone else in her family and it’s not that big of a deal.
Of course we have to have the love interest, aka hot cowboy neighbor Ben. Ben acts a little too much like a jackass sometimes for my tastes, but the author does a good job of establishing why he is acting like a jerk. I am also pleased that the other characters called him out on his occasionally crappy behavior.
The central mystery is not very twisty, but it does have a fun Scooby Doo like quality to it. I mean it revolves around the local legend of a ghost haunting a mine! And features a thrilling chase through said mine! All that’s missing is for Amy to pull a mask off of the ghost at the end to reveal that it was really the caretaker, Old Man Withers, all along. But there are genuine stakes and actual danger in this mystery, which is really all I ask for.
Texas Gothic is a well-written paranormal mystery with strong, relatable characters. I think I’m going to have to check out Rosemary Clement’s other books. After several years of reading about melodramatic vampires and depressing dystopias, it was nice to read a more realistic fantasy YA.
And as a treat: