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The Witch Boy Is a Heroic Tale That Proves Magic Has No Gender

'The Witch Boy' Is a Heroic Tale That Proves Magic Has No Gender

'The Witch Boy' Is a Heroic Tale That Proves Magic Has No Gender

Not all witches have to be girls.

TonyaWithAPen

The concept of gender roles and norms, of "boy things" and "girl things," has long been questioned in science fiction and fantasy works. Now, a new addition to that commentary comes in the form of Molly Ostertag's all-ages graphic novel The Witch Boy, which was published by Scholastic and released in 2017. The book tells the story of a young boy named Aster, who has a natural magical talent for witchery usually seen in girls. 

Aster's story begins in a world where boys with magic become shapeshifters and girls with magic become witches. Aster comes from an entire family clan of witches and shapeshifters and is pressured by most of his family to become a shapeshifter, despite his ability for witchery. When a mysterious entity starts kidnapping the boys, Aster must find the courage to use his powers to save them.

One of the most compelling things about the book are its characters. Ostertag has created an endearing cast that displays Aster's magical heritage and blends the magical world with the real world. Each character has a unique personality that is represented by their design. For example, Aster's long pony tailed hair and fondness for purple goes well with Aster's gender role nonconformity.

As the main character, Aster will be sympathetic to any reader who doesn't fit the norms or roles they are told to. Although Aster is never explicitly stated to be queer, it's not hard to see parallels between his situation and that of gender queer and gender non-conforming people. Furthermore, the world of The Witch Boy casually mentions that a secondary character has two dads, so it's possible for other queer characters to exist.

And speaking of the secondary characters, Charlie is particularly wonderful. An ordinary young Black girl with her leg in a cast, she becomes Aster's new friend by encouraging him to embrace his unconventional gifts. Not only that, but her backstory also shows how gender roles can have real world consequences, making her just as important as Aster. She also has the potential to become Aster's partner in crime in future stories, given her adorable curiosity and resourcefulness toward magic.

Besides the characters, the world building is memorable, especially when it comes to Aster's family clan. Aster's family is interracial in terms of skin tone as well as magical race, and seeing how that impacts magical abilities and roles is interesting. Not only does it demonstrate Aster's magical and personal potential, but it also serves to show that positive changes begin by addressing your past and present.

A final aspect of the book worth noting is the artwork. The backgrounds, characters, and magical creatures have vibrant colors that are pleasant to look at and an animated style that will attract younger readers. Ostertag's magical creature designs are especially striking, with the bright colors and the scary faces serving as a nice contrast.

All in all, The Witch Boy is an charming heroic adventure. Through lovable characters, good world-building and lovely art, Molly Ostertag shows that magic and adventure has no gender and that they belong to anyone. For those who need a fresh, entertaining examination of gender roles, this book is a must read!

The Witch Boy is available for purchase from Amazon and other booksellers. Be on the lookout for its sequel, coming in October 2018!

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Latonya Pennington

Latonya Pennington is a non-binary queer freelance writer. Their writing can be found in places like Wear Your Voice magazine, EFNIKS, and Black Girl Dangerous.

Latonya Pennington is a non-binary queer freelance writer. Their writing can be found in places like Wear Your Voice magazine, EFNIKS, and Black Girl Dangerous.