Review: Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney
A wannabe journalist and reluctant astrologer turns out to be clairvoyant in this charming middle-grade coming-of-age novel; for fans of Rebecca Stead’s novels.
Clara can’t believe her no-nonsense grandmother has just up and moved to Florida, leaving Clara and her mother on their own for the first time. This means her mother can finally “follow her bliss,” which involves moving to a tiny apartment in Kensington Market, working at a herbal remedy shop and trying to develop her so-called mystical powers. Clara tries to make the best of a bad situation by joining the newspaper staff at her new middle school, where she can sharpen her investigative journalistic skills and tell the kind of hard-news stories her grandmother appreciated. But the editor relegates her to boring news stories and worse . . . the horoscopes.
Worse yet, her horoscopes come true, and soon everyone at school is talking about Clara Voyant, the talented fortune-teller. Clara is horrified — horoscopes and clairvoyance aren’t real, she insists, just like her grandmother always told her. But when a mystery unfolds at school, she finds herself in a strange situation: having an opportunity to prove herself as an investigative journalist . . . with the help of her own mystical powers.
“Clara folded up her newspaper and handed it back, still trying to understand what had just happened. A horoscope column. By Clara Voyant. Hers for the rest of the year. This was definitely not part of the plan. In fact, it had disaster written all over it.”
After Clara Costa’s grandmother Elaine decides to leave Toronto for the warm climate of Florida, middle school student Clara and her mom Gaby move to a slightly ramshackle but nifty apartment in Kensington Market. While Clara’s mom is truly excited about the change, finding a new place, and opening her own herbal remedy shop, Clara is not as enthused by the changes. Clara does not enjoy her mother’s free spirit leanings and beliefs in mysticism, fortune-telling, herbal remedies- anything of that nature. She misses living in her grandmother’s clean and tidy duplex with its always-stocked fridge. While trying to deal with her mom’s foray into a nebulous business venture, Clara grits her teeth and focuses her energy on her school’s newspaper to try and take the first steps into becoming an investigative journalist. The only problem is: the arguably high-strung, taxing student editor Wesley Ferris (who always wears a blazer) assigns Clara to the horoscopes and the Clara Voyant column is soon born. However, as Clara takes a hesitant but orderly dive into making up horoscopes- by thinking about someone she knows under each star sign- she finds that they’re actually kind of accurate…bizarrely accurate to her amazement and semi-dismay. Clara’s mom and awesome, supportive best friend Maeve think her obvious display of clairvoyance is an incredible gift (and possibly familial!), Clara thinks her strange powers- what she begins to calls a “puzzle-snap” feeling of a clear solution or answer coming to her- might just be a terrible, so-not-Clara thing. Until…her newfound curious powers meet perfectly with her keen observational skills to solve a pressing school mystery.
“She had to admit, though, that it was kind of tempting, using her powers to find a really good Gazette story. Not that she had powers. But…if she did.”
Overall, Clara Voyant is such a supremely entertaining and smart read, with a fantastic group of characters to round it out. Kensington Market (and of course Toronto) just breathe with life and add this terrific texture and undeniably Canadian feel to the story. The focus on Clara’s possible power of clairvoyance is but one component of the story, with the core focus of the story more on Clara, her friendship with Maeve, solving the school mystery, as well as her evolving relationship with her mom. The supernatural element is an intriguing addition (surely one that will further engage readers) that lands very well and works smoothly with the story. Readers who have enjoyed the work of authors such as Susin Nielsen, Lisa Graff, Kat Yeh, Vikki VanSickle, or Karina Yan Glaser might especially love Clara Voyant.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.