July 26, 2017

Magic for Unlucky Girls Book Review by Amanda Bergloff

My love of fairy tales started when I was 4 years old and continues to this day. When I came across the book, Magic for Unlucky Girls, I was interested in seeing if something new would be brought to the genre in this collection of fourteen stories by author, A.A. Balaskovits.

This book did not fit in with the preconceived notions I had after looking at the table of contents. Reading it, I felt as if I had “fairy tale vertigo” due to the dizzying way Balaskovits reimagined familiar tales (as well as folklore and urban legends) into truly unique visions by turning them upside down and inside out.

This is not a book for children, as these stories are unapologetic in their strangeness, wild beauty, and violence. Adult themes and consequences, both good and bad, are incorporated in the fates of the female characters in the various tales.

Here you will find...a princess that finally wakes to a reality that isn’t better than her dreams...a modern small town Apple Queen whose fading beauty makes her treacherous to boys and 507 lemons can be used to keep suitors at bay...a queen whose hair lures and tricks an obsessive alchemist, stuck in suburbia, who inadvertently transforms the mundane into the extraordinary...and mermaids who, because of their unbreakable sisterly bond, will do anything to protect one another.

“The Ibex Girl of Qumran” was a standout to me with its surrealistic mix of folklore woven into a modern setting. Another standout was the heartbreaking and tragic story of Salter in, “Bloody Mary,” which riffs on the urban legend I remember from my own school days.

Some stories were clear on what original classical inspiration Balaskovits drew from, while others were very abstract, like a jazz melody, where the music deviates from the central theme, yet the melody is still present in the background. The main themes of fairy tales were always playing behind the stories even if I didn’t know exactly where they initially came from.

Magic for Unlucky Girls is an example of why fairy tales and folklore remain relevant today because they speak to the emotions that are present in our everyday experiences. Love, fear, anxiety, hope, survival, and triumph are forever re-told through this literary medium where authors, such as Balaskovits, can still create unusual and unique visions of stories that audiences can interpret, enjoy, and make their own each time they read them.

“Our children will make up their own endings, whether the girl becomes a witch or opens a cupcake shop or builds a bridge the color of gold. But we hope, in one of their minds, our beast-girl will find her gutted mother wolf, and using her hair as thread and a curved toenail as a needle, begin to sew.”
---from the story, “Three Times Red”

Review by Amanda Bergloff

Here's an 
Recently, EC contacted author,
A.A. Balaskovits,
to ask her 3 QUESTIONS for our feature:
1. What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
This answer changes a lot. My childhood favorite is probably Red Riding Hood, because it was one of the few I encountered (besides Hansel and Gretel) where the female protagonist was not a princess - just a regular girl going about her business and running into trouble. Now that I am older, I have soft spots for Bluebeard, because it's really the tale of Bluebeard's last wife, and The Handless Maiden, because there's this lovely image of the maiden stretching her neck out like a giraffe to eat from a fruit tree, and some prince thinks she's an angel because...angels and giraffes are the same creatures. There's a small gem I found called, How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, which is unique in the Grimms in that it doesn't really have any magical qualities at all, just kids being violent and adults not really getting it.

2. As an author, do you have a set writing routine?
Not especially. I wish I was better at routines, but life seems to get in the way. I try to write every day, and some days are more productive than others. I can go weeks with only writing down a few sentences about where I think a story is going, and then I sit and chew on them to understand if they are the correct idea or not. I have found that it's better for me to work on a few things at once, so when I get frustrated on one piece, I have something else to work on, so I don't get bogged down in one world.

3. What tip would you give other writers just starting out about getting published?
That rejection is common-place, and you should not take it personally. Beyond that, revise your work. Once you finish a piece, try setting it aside for a week or two and then come back to it with fresh eyes. A lot of writing is in re-writing, and distance helps.
You can find out more about
A.A. Balaskovits here,
and follow her on Twitter @AABalaskovits


  1. As an aspiring writer (and lover of fairytales and folk tales), reading this review and the author's Q&A was really valuable! Thank you!

    One thing I'd love to ask the reviewer: was the difference between your expectations and the reality of the book more of a pro or a con for you personally? I do enjoy reading new takes on old tales, but I prefer to know ahead of time whether the reading material is going to be a re-imagining or a more faithful adaptation.

    1. Hi Jeannette,
      Amanda here (aka: the reviewer)
      To answer your question: My expectations were based on some recent books I’ve read that were straight re-tellings of fairy tales. After I read the first story in “Magic for Unlucky Girls,” I realized Balaskovitz put her own individual spin on the stories using re-imagined fairy tale tropes in a non traditional way - some using a dark/contemporary setting and others using subtle humor in an abstract way. No faithful adaptations here, but yes, it ended up being a “pro” for me.

  2. Thanks for the review and the interview! I saw two different versions of "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. The first one was thoughtful, with judgment by an apple!, but the second was wretched and I wish I had not read it!