The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy's Magical Missions, #1) by Sunayna Prasad
A magic-laden plot with a nice touch of mystery and suspense!
After the death of her parents, young Alyssa McCarthy was taken in by her uncle and aunt to grow up beside their only child, Hailey. But when Aunt Laura passed away a few years later, her grieving husband, Bruce, became a strict taskmaster obsessed with the girls' grades. He eventually resorted to homeschooling, believing their traditional classroom education offered too many distractions for the young cousins to achieve his high academic goals for them.
One afternoon, Alyssa began finding odd notes around the house, predicting her life would change forever because of magic! But when she discovered the anonymous messages were from someone with plans to harm Uncle Bruce, she tried to warn him of the threatened danger. However, the notes disappeared before she could share them as proof. When he refused to believe her, strange things started happening around the house, and he blamed the two girls for the mischief. These malicious acts escalated until Uncle Bruce was afflicted with complete memory loss. Alyssa herself was kidnapped by the evil wizard behind the notes and whisked off to the Fiji Islands, where he planned to use her to gain power for his own gain.
The Frights of Fiji is the debut novel by young author Sunayna Prasad and the first in the planned seven-volume, middle-grade fantasy series, Alyssa McCarthy's Magical Missions. With its realistically relatable young heroine, her friends, and family members leading the action, this first book was a fun and imaginative adventure where good triumphs over great odds and the evil behind it.
A major strength of the story lies in the realistic portrayal of the pre-teen characters, with their friendships, rivalries, and squabbles. Alyssa and Hailey relate to each other like siblings, and 'mean girl' Destiny Cox brings conflict into the group of friends. Much of the dialogue feels authentic and true to life. I liked that the author had adults who made regretful decisions but later apologized for their hasty actions.
The plot slowly divulges the main characters' backstories while maintaining the action's pace. The current menace is confronted and dealt with, and the book concludes on a positive note, leaving plenty of room for future adventures.
I recommend THE FRIGHTS OF FIJI to middle-grade readers who enjoy a magic-laden plot with a nice touch of mystery and suspense.