Family Pets by Pat Shand and Sarah Dill

Family pets is an enjoyable, if somewhat flawed, story perfect for the YA genre. We have a feisty female, angst, boy trouble, and a bit of family issues and magic thrown in as well. But like so many YA stories today, it is greatly in need of a very good editor to strengthen plot and fix continuity errors. So while I enjoyed the story through to the end for its snarky humor and punchy dialogue, it’s not a story that stays with you very long after.

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Story: 16 year old loner Thomasina lost her parents at an early age and now lives with her grandmother and uncle’s family under one roof. They are quite eccentric but that’s what gave her such a distinct personality. She secretly likes a guy at school and shares her woes with her pet snake, Sebastian. When she comes downstairs one day to find her family turned into pets and her snake now a person, she will have to track down the source of her weird day’s magic and fix it so she gets her family back. But does Sebastian want to be turned back? And what’s the connection of her crush, Smitty, to what happened?

The artwork is quite interesting though a bit inconsistent at times. The book is black and white with clean and strong illustrations that do a decent job of telling the story. The style is reminiscent of Disney meets Final Fantasy but it works well.

Story wise, there’s nothing new here and it does feel very rushed. As Thomasina runs around trying to find a cure to her family’s state, we get glimpses but little more of the settings around her. From magic university to high school to even her home, neither art nor storytelling build enough of the world to ground our characters.

Issues like the one above combined with several scenes where new characters enter a scene and know everyone’s names inexplicably (or jump to really illogical conclusions) do bring down the title a bit. Pacing is also off – Sebastian’s (very random) British slang usage often gets tedious/overmuch and some scenes drag that should zip. It feels like it is trying to hard to be snarky/funny at many points. But at the same time, I really enjoyed the art, especially the moments with Sebastian as a snake interacting with Thomasina.

Admittedly, this did feel like a Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Whedon homage – with Sebastian being Xander and Smitty being a male Willow to Thomasina’s non-martial Buffy. But more unique characters such as the magic university dean and abuela added some extra fun into the story.

This is a solid 3.5 stars for me but I did enjoy it enough to round up to 4. Despite its flaws, it was a quick read that made me smile at times. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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