Showing Off: 06/10/17
Showing Off by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins is the third of the Upside-Down Magic books. As this series progresses, it reminds me more and more of a magical school anime (for both the good and the bad of that genre).
The title refers to a school-wide competition where the different magic classes by grade try to win prizes for the best magical performance. Dunwiddle Middle School's set up reminds me most of the school in Bako to Tesuto to Shokanju (aka Baka and Test). Both schools are rigidly divided by student's talents and age and are apparently asked to compete against each other. The difference here, though, is that Dunwiddle only does it once a year.
The problem with a story that's entirely based around a school-wide competition is that the plots are predictable. These things always seem to be from the bottom class's point of view because everyone loves an underdog (or in Nory's case, an underdritten). Of course the bottom class is too disparate in its skillsets and the other classes are all perfect and amazing in one way or another. Of course they have to embarrass themselves as they practice. Of course there's the added threat of parents not approving or not attending and carefully forged friendships being torn apart.
That said, if you're in the intended audience range — upper elementary or lower middle grade, these tropes and plots are still rather new and school wide competitions (though usually over mundane things like box tops and food drives) are a reality. So why not take that competition and throw magic into mix?
On a closing note, the book ends on a positive note — one where Nory comes to appreciate her magic and to think outside of the box. Her magic might be wonky not because it's inherently broken, but because she's a creative thinker.
There is a fourth book planned, Dragon Overnight.