Grace, Jenny, Una, Adie and Rachel are in their first year of secondary school. The five are all good friends and their easy, comfortable relationship is described with considerable charm.
The girls have been trying their hand at casting spells, with the help of an old book they’ve found, and the list of spells attempted provides extra insight into their characters. So far this is a popular if familiar set up for a girls’ read, but the story develops in unexpected ways. Taking their interest in the occult still further, the girls mess around with a Ouija board during a school careers evening, accidentally unleashing a very unpleasant demon who proceeds first to possess Una, and then to work through their list of wishes, granting them in a mischievous and malicious fashion. Watching some of their crueller wishes come true is an unpleasant experience for the girls, but there’s a real urgency to their rush to restore order: top of their list is the wish that the school bully should fall under a bus.
Fortunately the girls get help from an unexpected quarter – the ‘cat lady’ widely suspected locally to be a witch sort of is, and their French teacher no less proves useful with a spell or two too.
McGann mixes scenes of horror and humour with a deft, assured touch and it all builds to a very satisfying climax. No matter how wild the storyline, the truth and warmth of the girls’ friendship works as a glue to hold it all together. This is a very promising first novel.