Kat, Incorrigible Review
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When I was a kid, girls were supposed to read frilly books about princesses and proper, old-fashioned romance—and maybe the occasional contemporary novel about babysitters or well-behaved young sleuths. Now, though, in this post-Potter age, kids need a little something more. So author Stephanie Burgis has blended the beloved Regency romances of her youth with a touch of supernatural adventure for her charming first children’s novel Kat, Incorrigible.

Twelve-year-old Katherine Stephenson is desperate to make things right for her family. Her brother, Charles, has incurred so much debt that her prim and proper oldest sister, Elissa, is going to have to marry Sir Neville Collingwood—a man who’s rumored to have killed his first wife. After a failed attempt to run away and make a living in London, though, she has just one idea left.

  
 
Kat knows that her other sister, Angeline, has been secretly studying their mama’s old magic books—books that their stepmama has forbidden them to touch. And that gives Kat an idea. If she can somehow unlock the cupboard that contains their mama’s other magical belongings, maybe she can find some magical way to save Elissa. Instead, Kat finds herself transported to a grand golden hall, where she’s told that she’s inherited her mama’s magic—magic that’s much stronger than the spells that Angeline has been using to attract suitors. But she’ll have to figure out how to use her magic if she’s going to save her sister from Sir Neville.

For anyone who’s spent days buried in Jane Austen novels, Kat, Incorrigible is a lovable little adventure—part Regency romance, part supernatural coming-of-age story, told from the point of view of a headstrong young witch. Burgis plays with all of the elements typically found in classic romances: the balls, the gossip, the melodrama, the constant talk of Society and decorum and family obligation. But, to keep things fresh (not to mention make the a little hipper for young, 21st-century readers), she gives the story a kind of Harry Potter twist.

Austen fans will love the characters—like ladylike Elissa, a reader of gothic romances, who’s bound and determined to become a martyr for her family. Even dark and mysterious Sir Neville makes a fascinating villain. Kat, on the other hand, could use a little more development. She has some likable character traits (and young readers will relate to the way she always seems to get herself into trouble, no matter how hard she tries to be the proper young lady that Elissa and Stepmama want her to be), but, in this first book in the series, she doesn’t have a very strong personality. And she often reacts in ways that are difficult to understand—especially when it comes to Mr. Gregson, her would-be tutor.

While I could definitely appreciate the clever references and subtle wit, though, I have a feeling that much of that will be lost on the book’s target audience (ages 9-12). Most of them won’t know what it means that Elissa imagines herself to be a character in a gothic romance—and they probably won’t pick up on the little Austen parodies, either. Instead, they’ll just enjoy the old-fashioned characters and the magical young heroine—and maybe, with a little bit of prodding from eager moms and aunts, their love of this fun new series could even lead them to pick up their first Austen novel.

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