by Boom Baumgartner
Publisher: Untold Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Dora Behn might as well have been born invisible. She could wear bright colors and dance the Macarena in the middle of class without so much as a glance. It’s not that she’s antisocial, just no one other than her family seems to even notice she’s there. This would naturally put a damper on her romantic life… If she had one to begin with.
Everything changes on her sixteenth birthday when a talking cat appears and tells her she is a witch. For Dora, nothing could be worse. No one dated crazy cat ladies!
Things go from bad to worse when the other witches’ familiars go missing, including her aunt’s. Dora’s magic may be the only thing that can prevent the total destruction of the sleepy town of Kinderhook. But to save her friends and family, Dora must learn to embrace who and what she is. She just needs to figure out what that means.
Dora’s foot tapped against the yellow linoleum floor, her eyes moving back and forth between the clock and the calendar. The two stood in a stubborn standoff to see which could move the slowest.
The seconds ticked in an agonizingly slow rhythm. On the down beats, she looked at the calendar, the birthdays of all the students in Madame Djoat’s class scrawled in each block. Dora’s name was added with a different color pen as if it were an afterthought. Well, Dora’s French name, Donatienne, was added in with a different color pen, in any case.
Since the beginning of school she’d watched Madame Djoat cross off each day on the calendar, and sing “Bon Anniversaire” to each and every student, eager to have her turn. As her birthday drew nearer, she found it harder and harder to pay attention in class. She had already failed one pop quiz on the masculine and feminine articles for vegetables, and she wasn’t listening at all while they memorized the articles for fruits.
“Stephen! Quel est l’article correct pour ananas?” Madame Djoat pointed to the right side of the classroom.
Next to Dora, Steve jumped as he shoved his arm across his notebook, covering up a drawing of stick figures jumping off cliffs with his elbow. Apparently Dora wasn’t the only one fantasizing about other things in French class.
“Um, what?” Steven swallowed audibly.
Madame Djoat stomped her foot. “Stephen! Quel est l’article correct pour ananas?”
“I, uh… I don’t…”
Finally, she translated. “What’s the correct article for pineapple?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
“En français.” She crossed her arms.
“Oh, er, je ne sais pas.” Steve scratched the back of his head and looked over to his friends for help. The other two boys kept their eyes resolutely on their desks. Breath hitched in Dora’s throat as a thought occurred to her. If she diverted attention off him, maybe he’d notice her.
Shakily, Dora raised her hand. Sweat beaded on her neck, and her heart beat hard against her chest. Maybe he’d be so grateful he’d ask her on a date.
But Madame Djoat moved on. “Ça, Josephine. Connaissez-vous l’article? La ou le?”
Frowning, Dora put her hand down. She shouldn’t have been surprised Madame Djoat ignored her. As far as the school–no, the entire town of Kinderbook–was concerned, she was a witch, and even if she wasn’t one now, she was going to be one eventually.
Used to it, Dora shrugged it off. It would be different soon. When they sang “Bon Anniversaire,” Madame Djoat would ask “Quel âge as tu?” and Dora would proudly say, “Seize.”
Or at least, she thought it was seize. She quickly flipped to the back of her textbook in the dictionary section and looked for the word “sixteen.” She was right. Seize.
No one ever became a witch after sixteen.
“Madame Djoat,” a loud voice echoed around the room.
Dora whipped around to look over at Melanie Haan, the actual witch of Kinderbook High. Her right arm was waving in the air.
The rest of the class lazily turned their heads toward the speaker while Madame Djoat glanced up and down the lines of desks, trying to find who spoke. Melanie wore a bright pink sundress with fluorescent purple stockings and pink Chucks. It was impossible to miss the girl, yet it took a few moments for Madame Djoat to see her.
“Yes…” Madame Djoat went over to her desk and glanced at the clipboard with their seating charts, her finger trailing down the row. “Oui, Joan.”
Melanie’s French name, Joan, seemed a little bit strange. Wasn’t the image of Joan burning at the stake precisely the sort of association Melanie would want to avoid, seeing as she was actually a witch?
“I know the answer,” Melanie said. “I mean, je connais le response. It’s le. I mean, c’est le.”
“Bon. Correct,” Madame Djoat affirmed briskly. Then she moved on to the next fruit. “Next! Pomme!”
About the time pomegranate came up, Dora zoned out again. Melanie reminded her of what it was like to be a witch. It was hard to get anyone’s attention at all; something Dora’s aunt had said had to do with a natural defense mechanism.
People treated Dora as if she were microscopic–there, but not worth noting–because they thought she also might be a witch. After all, it ran in the family. Even her mother was surprised that two days before her sixteenth birthday a cat still hadn’t shown up.
After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a witch must have a familiar, and that the familiar be a cat. The fact that a cat hadn’t appeared meant that Dora wouldn’t end up a spinster cat lady like her Aunt Pamelia, or her Great-Aunt Calixta.
The class would not be singing “Bon Anniversaire” until the end of the period, and Dora contented herself with daydreams about Steve. In them, his confused expression would turn to her, suddenly have purpose, and he would grin at her like she had seen him do with other girls in the hallway. After her birthday, maybe he would ask her out.
Sure, he hadn’t said more than two words to her since elementary school, but Dora dared to dream.
If Steve didn’t ask, maybe someone like John or David would. Neither of them had really spoken to her either, but Dora was confident that once suspicion of her latent witchdom dispersed, she would be able to catch one of their eyes.
She dreamed up dates in nature parks and laughing at clothing on mannequins at the shopping mall. Then she dreamed up castles and dragons, putting different faces on the prince, until Madame Djoat projected the lyrics to “Bon Anniversaire” on the screen and commanded everyone to sing.
Dora grinned, and sat up straight. Sure, her birthday was actually Sunday, but still, they were going to sing to her, and as far as they cared, it would be her birthday. Oh, and Steve’s. But she didn’t really care about his birthday. Not right now, anyway. She would worry about it if they started dating.
“Bon Anniversaire, nos vœux les plus sincères…” the class sang.
When they finished singing, Madame Djoat smiled and looked at Steve. “Stephen! Quel âge as tu?”
“Um, sixteen. I mean, seize.”
“Thanks, I mean, merci.”
“All right, class! À demain! No homework this weekend!”
Dora sat at her desk, shocked, her big moment disappearing like a bubble being popped. The rest of the class shuffled around her, putting their things away in their bags and laughing as they went out into the hallway.
When everyone had left, and Madame Djoat started prepping the room for the next class, Dora slowly put her stuff away. Leaning over to shove a book in her backpack, something bright pink caught her attention. She closed her eyes, and opened them again. The bright pink hovered in her periphery.
“Hey, Dora.” Dora looked up to see Melanie smiling at her. “Bon anniversaire.”
Weakly, Dora smiled, trying not to meet Melanie’s eyes. “Yeah, um…thanks.” Then she crammed the last of her things in her bag and escaped. Of all the people to notice her, it just had to be the witch of Kinderbook High.
Guest Post by the Author
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a girl in possession of magic powers, must be in want of a cat.”
When I am asked to describe Dora’s Jinx, I usually jokingly call it my Anti-Romance Novel.
I started with Dora, a teenage girl obsessed with finding a boyfriend, gave her a love interest, and then sent her in a crazy direction that involved burning her own clothes on the front lawn, standing up to bullying unicorns, and trying to chase down unruly cats. Instead of finding true love, she discovers how important all the relationships in her life are, be they with herself, her family, her friends, and yes… her crushes.
What initially started out as as farcical premise (a witch afraid of becoming a crazy cat lady), turned into the book I wish I had read when I was sixteen. In high school, I felt like I was broken. Navigating relationships was as impossible as my calculus class, and I had this dumb idea that I could fix all of that if I just had a boyfriend. I thought it would prove to people that at least one person could love me, then I would be worthy to be loved by everyone. Of course, now I see that as silly. But what could I do? I was sixteen.
I don’t think I need to tell everybody that being a teenager is hard. You have to juggle school, driver’s licenses, friendships, love, and family. What’s worse, it’s the first time you’ve really started doing it. As we get older, we forget how difficult it was, and how it affects who we become when we’re older. Maybe if someone told me that I can have good friends, and I didn’t feel ashamed about my lack of boyfriend, I wouldn’t have had the disastrous relationships I did later on.
With Dora’s Jinx, I really wanted to focus on the maelstrom a young person has to deal with day in and day out. After all, even finding a place to sit in a lunchroom could be a trial, let alone your grades, or what a boy thinks of you. Writing Dora come into her own, and watching her gain confidence was a cathartic exercise to me. It is my hope it will be for others as well.
Truthfully, Dora’s Jinx isn’t against romance or romance novels. It just went in the opposite direction. Instead of a girl discovering herself through courtship, Dora experiences love in different ways and gains her power that way. It’s a love story in its purest form, even if it isn’t what we would classically think of a “love story”. I think we need more of those.
About the Author
Influenced from a young age by greats like David Bowie, Boom likes to add a little bit of glam to everything she does, from playing the ukulele to writing novels. When she’s not turning out stories about witchcraft and werewolves, she is a staff writer for ScienceFiction.com. You can find her other musings at LovingTheAlien.net
Win a $15 amazon gift card during the tour!