The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron is a middle grade novel in verse that I ended up loving way more than I expected to. The setting of this one, amidst the backdrop of the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, truly acted as a driving force for the emotionality and memorability of this story.

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The summary, from Amazon:

“Highly recommended… Perfect for readers of Wonder and Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe.”― Booklist magazine, starred review

Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don’t know how to help him. His friends have given up on him.

When Etan is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he realizes he’s at the home of Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature. Malia stopped going to school when her acute eczema spread to her face, and the bullying became too much.

As the two become friends, other kids tease Etan for knowing the Creature. But he believes he might have a cure for Malia’s condition, if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. Even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in?

Buy The Magical Imperfect here.


Etan has all but stopped talking since his mother checked into a mental healthcare facility. But when he meets Malia, a girl who is homeschooled due to a skin condition that led to her being bullied, he opens up. The two bond in the majestic forests outside of San Francisco. Etan’s grandfather shares some special clay with him, and Etan believes this can help Malia’s eczema. This touch of magical realism based on Jewish folklore fits seamlessly into a story otherwise based on a very real event – a major earthquake during the 1989 World Series match-up between the Giants and the Athletics.
Malia and Etan help build one another’s confidence and have a genuine friendship. I loved the emotional story told through gentle verse against such an exciting setting of baseball and earthquakes. This book really stuck with me and got me talking to my parents about their memories of watching the earthquake live on television. (I wasn’t born until almost a year later.) All in all, this was a 4 star read for me that I believe kids and adults alike will enjoy.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

The Magical ImperfectThe Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The setting of this one majorly stands out!

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Book Club Questions

  1. Describe Etan and Malia’s friendship.
  2. Why has Etan stopped talking?
  3. What is Etan’s relationship with his father like? With his grandfather?

Interested? Buy The Magical Imperfect.
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