The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag | REVIEW3 min read

Review of The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Quick Info about The Witch Boy

Title The Witch Boy
Author Molly Ostertag
Publisher Scholastic, Inc.
Release Date 28 October 2017
Format Paperback
Representation Several characters of color (including MC); Queer parents
Content Warnings Sexist comments/language; Genre-appropriate violence/blood;
Synopsis In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.
When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

 Review of THe Witch Boy

Cover of The Witch Boy by Molly OstertagSo The Witch Boy wasn’t at all what I expected, but I still enjoyed it. To summarize the themes a bit, this is a fast read with a good mix of light-hearted and dark-reality moments and a ton of gender-related social commentary.

Honestly, I expected this to be a story about a transgender main character, but it’s not—at least, not explicitly. I saw a few people in the reviews on Goodreads saying they see it as a metaphor for trans people, but I took it as purely a criticism of gender roles. It feels, to me, more like a story about how you don’t have to be any certain gender to live how you’d like. You don’t have to be a woman to be a teacher and you don’t have to be a man to be a doctor. In the world Ostertag has created here, we learn that you don’t have to be a girl to learn witchery and you don’t have to be a boy to become a shapeshifter. So if you are a potential reader and were concerned about possible misgendering of the character in the title, worry no longer. Aster is a boy and does not question his gender at any part of the story. He only questions why being a boy prevents him from being a witch.

Now we move onto other aspects of the book! While the story is long enough to tell what it needs to tell, it’s too short to go into much detail. So the characters weren’t that fleshed out. Ostertag does a great job, however, of setting up these characters in a way that aids the worldbuilding without monologuing about it. And the way it’s set up seems to be in our world, just with some people that have this magic and know about it but keep it a secret from mere muggles like us. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading its sequel.

Whom I recommend this to

  • All elementary and middle school aged readers who like fantasy
  • Older readers looking for a quick graphic novel to read
  • Readers looking for gender-related social commentary

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