Cover image for The Lightness of Hands
The Lightness of Hands
Physical Description:
400 p. ;

On Order

R.H. Stafford Library (Woodbury)1On Order
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A quirky and heartfelt coming-of-age story about a teen girl with bipolar II who signs her failed magician father up to perform his legendary but failed illusion on live TV in order to make enough money to pay for the medications they need--from the author of Symptoms of Being Human. Perfect for fans of Adi Alsaid, David Arnold, and Arvin Ahmadi.

Sixteen-year-old Ellie Dante is desperate for something in her life to finally go right. Her father was a famous stage magician until he attempted an epic illusion on live TV--and failed. Now Ellie lives with her dad in a beat-up RV, attending high school online and performing with him at birthday parties and bars across the Midwest to make ends meet.

But when the gigs dry up, their insurance lapses, leaving Dad's heart condition unchecked and forcing Ellie to battle her bipolar II disorder without medication.

Then Ellie receives a call from a famous magic duo, who offer fifteen thousand dollars and a shot at redemption: they want her father to perform the illusion that wrecked his career--on their live TV special, which shoots in Los Angeles in ten days.

Ellie knows her dad will refuse--but she takes the deal anyway, then lies to persuade him to head west. With the help of her online-only best friend and an unusual guy she teams up with along the way, Ellie makes a plan to stage his comeback. But when her lie is exposed, she'll have to confront her illness and her choices head-on to save her father--and herself.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--For Ellie Dante, life presents constant obstacles. Living in an old RV with her father, a magician of lapsed fame, she struggles to pay for food, gas, and the basics as they travel the country looking for gigs. After dropping out of high school and enrolling in an online program, Ellie fights against spotty Wi-Fi and impossible time constraints to tackle her academic work. But the most challenging hurdle is her bipolar II disorder. With money running low and no health insurance, Ellie and her father, who has a heart condition, are in constant medical danger. When Ellie has the opportunity to help her father gain a second chance at fame, she reluctantly pushes forward and does everything she can to save his reputation. Garvin not only captures the intricacies of teenage emotion perfectly, but also successfully integrates the painful, complex symptoms of Ellie's mental illness into the more mundane concerns of her daily life. He paints a realistic, startling portrait of what it's like for a high school girl with bipolar II to get through each day. Using the unique, captivating backdrop of the field of magic, the author creates an unforgettable tale that is sure to help teens imagine what it's like to be on the verge of homelessness while also fighting mental illness. VERDICT An important, moving portrayal of the way mental illness affects the life of a teenage girl; a worthy addition to any library.--Karin Greenberg, Manhasset High School, Manhasset, NY

Publisher's Weekly Review

Highs and lows come in big waves for 16-year-old Ellie Dante, the bipolar daughter of a down-and-out magician with a heart condition, whose career plummeted after his infamous Truck Drop trick went wrong 10 years ago. The Dantes are at rock bottom in Indiana, living in a rundown RV with no gigs and no money for much-needed medication, when an offer comes that could put Ellie's father's career back on track. All he has to do is successfully perform the trick that ruined him on national television. Ellie accepts the offer, but it will take more than magic for her to overcome the obstacles--she'll have to get her father to agree, assemble the equipment they'll need to perform in L.A. in 10 days, and control her spiraling moods without meds. Ellie's outlandish schemes are a little hard to swallow, but the heart of the story, a girl desperately trying to monitor her disorder and save her family, remains credible. Garvin (Symptoms of Being Human) uses his knowledge of magic and personal experience with bipolarism to add insight to this dramatic story as he skillfully evokes the traveling performers' gritty lifestyle and the enticement of illusion. Ages 14--up. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

A bipolar teen pushes her washed-up magician father toward one last redemptive deception. Ten years ago, Ellie Dante's father ruined his career when he flubbed a trick called the Truck Drop on national TV. Not long after, Ellie's mother died by suicide. Ellie and her dad fled to Fort Wayne, Indiana, eking out a living performing magic at birthday parties and weddings. But bookings have dwindled and they can't make lot rent for their RV or afford the medications for Ellie's bipolar disorder or her dad's heart condition. They've resorted to using their sleight-of-hand talents to commit petty theft when Ellie gets the offer that might save them: Re-create the Truck Drop, live from Hollywood, for a pile of cash. Ellie has to figure out how to get them across the country, prise the necessary props out of a reclusive millionaire's hands, persuade her father to overcome his demons, and pull off the trick, all the while battling the mounting effects of her lack of medication. Ellie is a talented magician herself but is afraid of the effect performing has on her brain, and the trip itself takes a toll. Garvin's (Symptoms of Being Human, 2016) portrayal of Ellie's bipolar experience is exceptional; the world of magic is also superbly rendered. The story lags a bit in the middle, but its strengths more than make up for its shortcomings. All main characters are white. Very, very good. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.