Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For by Sara Pascoe Review

Historical fiction novel for teenage and young adult readers

Being a Witch

Books are more than just stories. Books can show you things from other perspectives, give you a glimpse of different situations and problems and Sara Pascoe’s (not the comedian you may know from the television) Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For does this quite well. This is a fictional story but deals with things such as foster care, diversity, love, friendship, women’s rights as well as themes of time travel, history, witchcraft and different world civilisations. The author wrote it with three paramount issues in mind:

  1. The plight of foster children and what this experience is like
  2. That ALL cultures have good and bad in them regardless of colour, religion, gender etc.
  3. Emotional healing

Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For is a book aimed at the teenage and young adult readers. It is a about a teenage girl who is living in foster care and is going through some changes.

Rachel (although she prefers to be called Raya) is a troubled 14 years old. Her mum has some mental health issues which means she must live in foster care. Being a teenager brings massive changes in her life, some quite bizarre. With her emotions in turmoil, she wants nothing more than to be loved, in a proper stable family environment and doesn’t feel foster care will give her that so makes the decision to run away to London.

What Raya doesn’t realise is that the changes in her are not only a normal part of growing up, but she is becoming a witch. With high emotions and rampant hormones kicking in when things aren’t going her way, she accidentally travels back in time with her cat Oscar to 1645 Essex and the Essex Witch Trials.

Bryony is not only Raya’s social worker but also her witch mentor. She is sent back in time to try and get Raya home, but things go horribly wrong for them both. They are both going to be executed as witches. With time running out they manage to escape, but instead of returning home they end up in Old Istanbul of 1645.

Stuck in old Istanbul, Raya’s forming witch powers start to develop more and she becomes a reader of coffee grounds – she is able to tell people’s fortunes. This eventually brings her to the attention of the Sultan’s wife, and she is invited to the vast luxurious Palace to read her fortune. Unfortunately, the Sultana is power mad and has other ideas for Raya’s unique talents which will change the course of history.

Overall, I found this book to be an excellent and very enjoyable read and features some excellent themes that the reader can explore and in ways, relate to.

Raya a teenager that is going through some massive emotional changes in her life and is desperate for her own independence and a “better life”. She soon realises that the fantasy and reality of running away from home are not the same and, quite frankly, life is hard, the grass is not always greener on the other side. What she really wants is family and love, just like everybody else.

This story is very well-written and the different time travel periods seem well researched, interesting enough to capture and hold the attention of teenage readers whilst at the same time not overloading with the historical aspects of the story or making them dry and boring like a history textbook. It covers difficult themes such as teenage dilemmas, growing up in foster care, tolerance, different cultures, pain, loss, love, morals and going through changes. It has plenty of action and magic to keep teenagers entertained with witches, talking cats and time travel which are beautifully intertwined with excellent described periods of Olde Worlde England, Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire, all seen through the fresh eyes of a 21st Century teenager.

Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For is a delightful quirky story, a very entertaining read that deals with some very difficult themes (foster care, family units, fitting in, emotions, running away from home and different cultures and time periods) all of which are still very relevant in the world of today. I would recommend for children aged 11 years +, young adults, as well as adults that just like a good story.

A good historical fiction story witch some excellent characters that will appeal to teenage readers.

Rating: 5/5

RRP: £11.99 (Paperback) / £3.99 (Kindle)

For more information, visit www.sarapascoe.net. Available to buy from Amazon here.

DISCLOSURE: All thoughts and opinions are our own. This review uses an affiliate link which we may receive a small commission from if you purchase through the link.
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