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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


JINX by Sage Blackwood is another January publication that has waited patiently for some discussion.  This one scores high for me in all the criteria, and yet I find myself sort of lukewarm about it as a Newbery hopeful, and I’m not exactly sure why.  It does have a Lloyd Alexander/Diana Wynne Jones vibe to it–which is a good thing!–but I wonder if it isn’t too much like them to be seen as a distinct contribution.

I think something similar happened last year with THE FALSE PRINCE which was so similar to THE THIEF (and THE HUNGER GAMES, at least in its competition aspect) that it was hard for seasoned readers to get as excited about it.  This one provides a good foil to THE REAL BOY which is a similar kind of fantasy: not quite epic high fantasy, but certainly with enough of those elements to draw in that crowd.  I find JINX superior in all respects (and most especially in the magic department), but rereading them both would help me gain a greater appreciation of their respective distinguished qualities.  But why would I want to reread this one when I’ve got the second book, JINX’S MAGIC, queued up in my pile?

Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. I thought JINX was a fun ride, and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, but I was not particularly overwhelmed by its Newberyness. The pacing had a few soft spots, and there were a couple of places where things were less subtle than they should have been, with Jinx repeating his thoughts several times just in case we didn’t catch on the first time. (Though, as it appears always happens, I don’t have a copy on hand right now to give specifics.) There were also several places where I felt that ends did not get tied up, which was appropriate given that it was the first in the series, but looked at as a single book, it detracts from the overall package.

    I did like the characters, particularly Simon, who I thought was well drawn as both grumpy and caring in his own way. A person that is definitely not a villain, but also not necessarily a “nice” person.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, and (if you don’t count bringing it out for booktalks or recommending it to specific kids I know will love it) I haven’t given it a second thought, unlike many of the other contenders which make me think of them from time to time.

  2. I was strong on Jinx as a contender — until I got to the end. I’d have to reread it to pinpoint where it went a little flat. (Maybe a little too much hanging for the sequel?) Actually, since I’m a Cybils 2nd round judge for middle grade speculative fiction this year, I’m hoping I will get a reason to reread it.

    But certain elements of the criteria were exceptional. The setting with the Enchanted Forest was wonderfully well done. (And much better than the similar forest in The Real Boy.) And characterization — I liked the way whether Simon was good or bad was left ambiguous because there were good and bad things about him. It was a nuanced presentation of character.

  3. I really liked JINX, but something about it didn’t quite rise to the top for me. I’m not quite sure why. I personally loved the ending and would have been content with the open-endedness of it, but I’m delighted there’s a sequel looming. I thought Jinx’s character was well done; he had real growth throughout the novel, and he’s just plain interesting. And Simon was fascinating: can we trust him or not? The setting: top notch. I love the trees and the way Jinx can feel them. The worldbuilding was excellent. I’ll be reading the sequel and hope to someday reread JINX. But it didn’t grab me and yell “Newbery” when I first read it.

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