Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle follows the story of Bettie Hughes, a sort of washed up celebrity who was famous for being her actress grandmother Bettie Watson’s granddaughter. Carrying the heft of her namesake on her back, Bettie tried to make a name for herself with several failed business ventures and a stint in influencing on social media. Despite her efforts, she could not retain success or finances either, and is now broke. Bettie finds herself broke and squatting in some dead lady’s house in Teller City, Colorado – the same city her grandparents live in. Desperate to show off her imaginary riches to her family and establish herself as successful to her family, Bettie is on the hunt for the perfect Christmas gifts to convey that message.
Unable to find the perfect gifts within her nonexistent budget, Bettie ends up getting drunk off wine and listening to records when she accidentally spills wine over her record player as it played the iconic Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. The record ends up getting played backwards, which causes the lights to flicker and lightbulbs to break. In all the craziness, Bettie realizes she’s no longer alone. Enter Hall – short for Holiday of course – the Holiday Spirit personified.
After Hall introduces himself and tells Bettie his purpose – to increase her holiday spirit/happiness – shenanigans ensue as Hall is able to use magic to conjure up (almost) anything Bettie desires. All Bettie has to do is say the magic words “make my wish come true” and Hall gets to work. Bettie uses this to her advantage to ask for crazy, outlandish items like Amal Clooney’s engagement ring and Jennifer Lopez’s famous green dress, to fulfill her mission of extravagant gifts for her family. She also uses Hall’s magic to exact revenge on journalists and gossip columnists that wrote badly about her. In between wishes, Hall is spreading his holiday cheer by transforming the areas around them with tons of holiday decor, baked goods and anything that would cheer up any normal person not on a vendetta.
As Bettie spends more time with Hall, he grows on her and she develops an attraction to him. Bettie ends up taking Hall home to her grandparents to spend the holiday with her family, announcing Hall as her fiancée. Hall, doing what he does best, spreads his holiday cheer to the Hughes-Watson clan. Bettie is one of four siblings, all of whom are in the spotlight in some way. In the days leading up to Christmas, and in all the activities and goodies Hall conjures up for the family, Bettie’s spirit and happiness levels increase and her life begins to change.
Common Themes + Opinions:
The glaring theme in this story is Bettie’s feelings of inadequacy. She deems herself a failure, given that she couldn’t accomplish quite the same level of greatness as her siblings or grandma, and feels like she’s not good enough for her family. This, coupled with her failed relationship with her ex, has brought Bettie down to where she was essentially spiraling in the beginning of the book. She thinks that she’d be able to show off and show out with flashy gifts and cement that she’s doing well for herself to her family, not realizing that she doesn’t need any of that to be enough. As she spent more time with Hall and her family, she slowly realizes this and decides to make positive changes in her life. I can identify with Bettie’s feelings of inadequacy; striking out on your own to follow your own path is hard and while failure can be redirection, it still hurts to fail at something.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, I enjoyed reading Just Like Magic. I wanted to try some holiday themed books to achieve peak holiday vibes, and this didn’t disappoint. I low key wish I had my own version of Hall to shower me with the holiday spirit, all of the baked goods and random gifts and activities. Bettie and Hall’s relationship turned to romance was adorable – almost saccharine – but still enjoyable. I’m also glad Bettie got her shit together and finally found something she felt passionate about; she’s finally striking out on her own path.
All in all, I give Just Like Magic four stars for its charming story and holiday vibe. If you’ve read Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other (read my review here!), you’ll enjoy this book as it has similar vibes, banter, and character development. Though if you’re looking for spice, look elsewhere as there isn’t any in this book aside from some kissing (though because this is a slow burn, that first kiss was satisfying to read).
Have you read Just Like Magic? What did you think?