Wicked Like a Wildfire

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Wicked Like a Wildfire Book Poster Image
Magical twins chase a family curse in absorbing fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some insight into the language, culture, and geography of Montenegro. A few facts about artist Dale Chihuly and his blown-glass installation in Las Vegas.

Positive Messages

True love, whether romantic or for family, means loving someone enough to do what's best for them, even letting them go. Magic (symbolizing love and beauty) created by people who can't choose freely becomes hollow; it needs freedom to thrive. Nothing is simple; there's never just one truth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Iris' relationship with her mother is tense and full of mutual verbal hostility, although Iris loves her mother very much. Her relationship with twin sister Malina is deep and loving. Iris chafes against feeling helpless and limited, and Malina is content with how their lives are and thinks their magical abilities are worth the sacrifices they have to make for them. Both are brave, loyal, and willing to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones.

Violence

Description of a large pool of blood, the crunching sound of a head hitting tile, and gurgling in the victim's throat from a magical attack. In a dream, a woman slices her arm and blood drips. Bleeding from magical injuries mentioned. A couple of slaps in the face. Death is a character who presents himself in human form. Some scariness from the near death of an important character and eerie, supernatural locations.

Sex

Kissing, caressing, feelings of attraction, and vague descriptions of body positions, physical sensations, and romantic emotions. A couple of same-sex kisses on the mouth described as "chaste." An important character is in a same-sex relationship; the issue itself isn't mentioned or discussed. Having sex is implied several times, mentioned once, but never directly described.

Language

Infrequent, but strong. "F--k" and variations, "s--t" and variations, "a--hole," "d--k" (body part), "bitch," "bastard," "hell," "damn," "slut," and "Jesus" as an exclamation.

Consumerism

A few food, beverage (including alcohol), clothing, and household products to establish location or character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older teens, possibly of legal age in Montenegro, drink various kinds of alcohol when they go out at night, and once have wine with lunch at a restaurant. Occasional mention of being high and tipsy. Once the mother gets very drunk and throws up. A character has a shot of tequila when she's upset. A character wishes she had some wine to "take the edge off." Occasional mention of marijuana (weed), being high, and one mention that it and alcohol enhance magical abilities. Mention that something is like an "opium dream." A character inhales something that's not specified and describes emotions and physical sensations that imply she got high. Some minor characters smoke, a major character smells of smoke once, and several events take place at a "nargileh" cafe (hookah bar) owned by the family of the twins' best friends.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wicked Like a Wildfire is a fantasy, the first of two planned books, about 17-year-old twin sisters with magical abilities who set out to learn the truth behind their magic. Violence is rare but includes one description of a large pool of blood. Teens kiss and make out with physical sensations and emotions described, and having sex is implied but never described. One character is in a same-sex relationship. Several characters smoke cigarettes, and a hookah bar is an important location. The teens, possibly of age where they live in Montenegro, drink a variety of hard alcohol and wine, and mention smoking marijuana with minor consequences occasionally noted. Once the mother gets very drunk and throws up, and the sisters take care of her. Strong language is infrequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." The sisters model a strong, loving bond, always looking out for each other. 

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What's the story?

In WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE, 17-year-old twins Iris and Malina each have a magical ability, called a gleam, that they have to practice in secret for fear of being branded witches by the locals. A mysterious attacker leaves their mother hovering between life and death, and the local police are baffled. So the twins and their best friends set out to find the culprit. As they dig deeper into the mystery, the twins discover there's a lot more to their family than their mother let on. And that those family ties, through countless generations, lead back to a bargain struck with Death himself. Will Iris and Malina have to keep that bargain now?

Is it any good?

This debut fantasy draws the reader in with its engaging, magical teen characters, unusual setting, and vividly evoked, witchy folklore. Wicked Like a Wildfire's intriguing mystery and thickening plot keep the pages turning. Author Lana Popovic is particularly good at bringing the mountainous beauty of Montenegro to life: Don't be surprised if you find yourself adding it to your bucket list.

Iris and Malina are exotic yet relatable characters. Teen fantasy fans will easily overlook the overused lip biting and nails digging into clenched fists, and the all-too-common device of the heroine not knowing that her best friend is totally in love with her. Nearly every other aspect of the story has fresh appeal, from Iris and Malina's particular abilities to the way everything is steeped in rich, exotic folklore. Planned as the first of two volumes, the book has a cliffhanger ending that will have readers eager for the rest of the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Wicked Like a Wildfire shows Iris and Malina's relationship. Does it seem realistic? Do you have a special bond like theirs with a sibling or close friend?

  • How much sexy stuff is OK in books? Does it seem realistic in this one?

  • What do you think will happen in the planned second book? Why do you think so many fantasy books are series?

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