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Brian Corley
Brian Corley, author

Young Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Create)

As the reluctant new kid in town, having left his friends and their would-be band behind, Geoff Smith is trying his best to navigate the complexities of Alder High (go 'Varks). One could say he’s a little more comfortable with a guitar in his hands than with chatting up his peers or his major crush, Corinne. His father, a professor and collector of magical oddities, is a local goth hero, but that doesn’t exactly boost Geoff's popularity. However, his dad’s latest find, a mysterious book of spells, might be the key to winning a seemingly impossible bet with Corinne, along with her heart. In a whirl of notes and lyrics, Geoff unknowingly strums a cursed tune. Suddenly, his low-key life hits a high note as the melody weaves its magical chaos throughout the school. The world becomes a stage, and the students its unknowing actors—with Geoff as the star. Caught in the spell's limelight, Geoff must face the music. With the stakes escalating, he has to navigate his feelings for Corinne, dodge the ominous shadow of a bike-rack bully, and find a way to break the spell before his final curtain call. Can Geoff turn the tables, win the girl, and restore harmony? Or will he learn the hard way that in magic, as in music, everything has its price?
Blending music, magic, and a sure sense of the challenges of finding one’s self, GILM! follows new kid in town Geoff Smith after arriving in Portland with his oddball father, who runs a magical mystery store, Curio City. The store houses taxidermy specimens including a bat supposedly once owned by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and it’s frequented by black-clothed goths, but Geoff finds the whole magical vibe embarrassing, especially the belief of some that the spellbooks sold there might hold real magic. His resistance is relatable, as he regrets leaving behind his Houston friends and would-be band, and finding his niche in his new home would be a balancing act like no other. Geoff faces the school bully, Will, who terrorizes him every morning, but finds consolation in seeing his crush, Corrine, in his history class. When he shares that he’s a songwriter, she offers him a beguiling challenge: “If you write me a song that rhymes something with the word ‘film,’ I’ll take you for pizza.”

After that irresistible hook, the story takes off in amusing directions. Overwhelmed with Corinne’s challenge, and going against his father’s rules, Geoff borrows one of his Dad’s books to wish for help, despite believing the magic won’t work. Of course, magic, like creating art and sharing it with the world, never goes quite as one plans, and Geoff’s dabbling in both results in unexpected consequences, connections, and surprises, prompting a mad comic scramble to set the world back—but not sacrifice his enticing new relationship with Corinne.

Corley keeps the story brisk, funny, and poignant, though his creativity and wit cannot be contained to one medium. The author of well-received YA titles like Space Throne is also a songwriter who has recorded for over two decades years with The Mars McClanes, a Portland rock band. Their song “GILM!” inspired the novel and will share a release date—and, with luck, won’t throw existence into chaos.

Takeaway: A teen songwriter’s wish leads to comic chaos in his new school.

Comparable Titles: Sarah Gailey’s When We Were Magic, Melissa Walker's Let’s Pretend We Never Met.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A