Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication: April 28th, 2015
Pages: 309
Song I Played While Reading: Papercut by Zedd
Rating: 4.5 stars

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak- to live.
All the doctors can do is give her drugs and hope they keep her alive: So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of the medication. But Aza doesn't thin this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who's always been there for her. Jason, for whom she might have more-then-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terrible wrong. The sickness catches up with her.
Aza is lost to our world.
And found by another.


Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power. And she can use it to change the world. 
As she navigates her new life, Aza discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth on the cusp of a reckoning. In Aza's hands lies the whole of humanity- including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie? 

Tell me that doesn't sound intriguing. I mean, WOW. This was a very low-key thrill ride, and I mean that in the best way possible. It reminds me a little of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, but definitely not in main characters. Aza and Jason are one of the strangest pairs of people I've ever read about, and I absolutely LOVED it.
Aza is morbidly fascinated with everything, and not afraid of the truth. She'll bluntly tell you she's dying and enjoy your uncomfortable reaction. Though she's weak and can barely breathe sometimes, she makes the best out of every situation. She's strong, in her own way, and I so so SO enjoyed reading from her point of view. I loved the way she looked at the world and all the random bits of information she had stored in her head. She was sarcastic, a little pessimistic, and just outright weird. She didn't see the world in rainbows and unicorns like some people do, but neither did she mope around and be super boring. She poked fun at her disease.
Jason was the other character we read from, and I couldn't tell who I enjoyed more. Usually I always prefer a narrator over another, but these two were such a freakin riot that it was just one big 'ol book of confetti. And I'm not using riot with the intent to make you think these two are just hilarious. Don't get me wrong, they are, but they're also outright quirky. Especially Jason. He's a 16 year old entrepreneur that has 3 patents, has connections to people in the black market/ government, is insanely intelligent and is so confident in his abilities that he slacks in school just because he can and wants to be the next Steve Jobs, and recites Pi whenever he's stressed out. This kid is pure gold!
The emotional connection I had with the characters was super strong, and at times my heart broke for them. The struggles they all went through made me cry multiple times because her family and Jason loved Aza with all their beings. I couldn't imagine what it must have felt like, for either party.

"I'll find you," Jason says, and I hear him. I hear him. I trust him.
The lights flicker. I hear a giant impact up in the sky, and there's an explosion, fire, the smell of smoke and ozone. Something snags me and pulls hard, out of the ambulance doors, outside, and my dad is swearing, and Jason is still telling the girl on the gurney he's not letting her go, and Eli's screaming, and then the sirens stop. 
And after that? There's nothing."

That entire scene just made me bawl my eyes out.
The world was insanely cool. It was imaginative and new and completely breathtaking. Squallwhales? Stormsharks? Batsails? It's like a sky aquarium! I could easily picture everything that was described and loved the way Headley wrote. It was unorthodox and sometimes grammatically wrong and completely hers. There weren't periods and commas in all the right places. It was poetic and mysterious and reminded me a little of Jandy Nelson.
Though a high fantasy, we get a fascinating back story thats simultaneously unique and believable enough that I could see it happening in the real world. We delve into UFO sightings and crop circles and a bunch of history that reports these mysterious "ships in the sky". All of this, the research Jason and Aza find, actually exist. How cool is that?!
Overall, this is a phenomenal YA debut. If you enjoy high fantasy, intriguing characters, and a beautiful and poetic writing style, then this is definitely the book for you.

"The proper name for the North Star is Cynosure, named after a nymph. It's a scip steorra, "star ship," for navigation. In some of the old stories (give it up for the many peculiar and awesome philosophers of the 1600's- in this case, Jacques Gafarel, and no, I can't explain how I happened upon him, except that at some point, deep in the library, I saw a circular diagram of the sky, and the stars looked like breeding fruit flies in a petri dish and I was So Obsessed), the patterns of the stars form letters. Celestial alphabet. Writing that gets rewritten as the earth moves. If you look at the sky that way, it's this massive shifting poem, or maybe a letter, first written by one author, and then, when the earth moves, annotated by another. So I stare and stare until, one day, I can read it."

"I'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteries."

""Don't worry about the feather," he tells me now. "I can see you worrying. We'll get through this. I'm a master fighter. If it turns out Big Bird's hanging out in your bedroom, I'll slay that bird."
This is actually weirdly comforting for someone who's pretty sure she's about to die. Having a dad who's willing to declare war against an institution as deeply rooted as Big Bird is not nothing."

"But he's looking at me in a way that makes me wonder if he's invented the whole giant-squid-footage thing completely, and he's actually going to do something weird- pour water on my head when I walk through the basement door, or present me with immortality ointment. I don't think about any other kind of thing he might be wanting to do with me, because he's Jason, and I'm me."

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