Chapter 7 of Lizzie Skurnick's Shelf Discovery is all about the supernatural. This was something I loved as a kid. Superhuman abilities, ghosts, UFOs, witches, anything that fell in the category was something I wanted to read. I still have my copy of A Gift of Magic (fortunately, so I didn't have to suffer the updated version). In fact, I have this cover, and if you look closely at the upper right-hand corner, you'll see it cost 75 cents. Wow.
A Gift of Magic is about Nancy Barrett, whose parents are divorcing and she, her brother and sister, are now living with their mother in their grandmother's home in Florida (grandma's been dead for years). Grandma had some interesting qualities, and on her deathbed she made some unique gifts: to Kirby, Nancy's older sister, the gift of dance; to younger brother Brendon (who hadn't even been born then), the gift of music; and to Nancy, who looks like Grandma, the gift of magic.
Nancy doesn't realize she even has a gift. She just thinks it's her way, how she can tell when things are going to happen, who's calling when the phone rings, that sort of thing. But when a guidance counselor at her new school picks up on her ability and wants to test her, she starts doing some research and discovers that her talent is indeed special--and something she wants to keep to herself.
But just that amount of research also leads her to try things she's never tried before--like making things happen to other people. Say to that nice man who's started dating her mother. Or to her sister, whose obsession with dance may take her away from them. And maybe things don't turn out quite the way she thinks they should.
In Shelf Discovery, Skurnick talks about this book as different from many others in the category:
"For Lois Duncan, A Gift of Magic is...all the more striking for eschewing the trademark of her many other beloved novels (namely, being fucking terrifying). Instead, it takes an ordinary character dealing, as most of us were, with the changes of puberty right alongside changes in her family. In A Gift of Magic, there's no evil twin, no menacing stranger--only a girl who can see the past, future, and present far, far away, fighting witha power she does not yet understand or control."
Although generally I liked my supernatural novels to be scary (even though the net result was often me hiding in terrorunder the covers late at night, wondering about that sound in the attic or that skittering in the walls), I loved this one, and found it a joy to revisit. I think I set aside my desire to be scared and replaced it with "what if this happened to me?" No scares, just turmoil, confusion, and fear of a different nature.