Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Talent Thief, by Mike Thayer

After her grandmother passes away, Tiffany knows she has been cursed.  How else could you explain the string of embarrassing incidents that plague her middle school existence?  Or what about the fact that her Dad is about to lose the planetarium that he has devoted so much effort to keeping afloat?  It will take a miracle to flip things around.

When two meteors collide one night in the skies above her, Tiffany feels like something significant has changed in her life.  Inexplicably, she finds herself gifted with talents that she never imagined possessing.  She gains the ability to sing like queen bee Candace, the talent to sink three-point shots like smoldering Brady, and even the ability to do card tricks like her grandmother's old friend in the nursing home.  But the magic comes with two caveats:  it is temporary and it requires that Tiffany steal it away (the person who had the talent becomes normal while Tiffany possesses it).  

With such magic, Tiffany could really fix things and make everything right.  But the ethics of the power vex her.  Very quickly she realizes how much harm she can cause to others.  And while there are instances when hurting others might feel justified (stealing Candace's voice before a performance so she flubs it), it is never nice.  And moreover, what does it say that you can only get ahead by stealing from others?  In the end, Tiffany comes to realize that being successful comes as much from self-confidence and the support of others as it comes from any talent.

A fine fantasy novel that approaches the morality of playing fair.  I was put off by the character of Tiffany who never really felt authentic to me and by the setting (planetarium? really?).  I also found the characters rather thin.  But I appreciated the nice age-appropriate development of a theme that allowed Tiffany to explore the pitfalls of her incredible power.

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