One of the most likeable characters in the Harry Potter books - at least in my opinion - was Ron's dad, Mr. Weasley. He's a guy who can do magic, and yet he's fascinated to the point of obsession with how muggles get by without it. Since Harry grew up in a muggle home he's always asking him about things like electricity and escalators and rubber duckies. I suspect most of us would LOVE to live in a magical world and be able to use magic for our own benefit, and yet he's curious about our world. But what if we really lived in a world with magic? How easy would it be to rely too much on it? That's a question I wondered about while reading The Real Boy by Anne Ursu.
Oscar works for the magician Caleb. But he isn't his apprentice; he's just the "hand." He spends most of his time hidden in the cellar mixing herbs and potions for the customers who come from the shining city to buy Caleb's magic. They rely on it for almost everything, from potions and spells that will make them lucky or beautiful, or help them gain money or make someone fall in love with them. But there's something different about Oscar. Many people call him "simple" - or worse! - but in some ways he's actually smarter than Caleb's apprentice, Wolf. But when the usual order of things starts to unravel, and children in the city begin to fall ill, Oscar will have to venture out of his comfortable life in the basement to confront the problems.
This is an interesting story that kept me guessing throughout. It's told from Oscar's point of view, and the mystery of what's going on and how Oscar and Caleb fit into it all, as well as the interesting characters, makes for a compelling read. And I honestly liked the way it ended, and thought it had a nice message. But the most interesting thing in the story was Oscar himself. He seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum, like Asperger’s maybe. He is obsessed with order and I thought it was an interesting glimpse into his thought processes. (I received this book from Amazon Vine, and it sounds like readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime might enjoy this one as well.)