Here is the trick with magic realism: if you're going to add a little magic to your realistic story, just drop it in there and don't futz with it. Like cold butter on warm bread, if you try to even it out you will just tear holes in your plot and make yucky little crumb-butter tumbleclots. In other words, if Grandpa can fly, he can just fly, ok? Don't start rattling off a long and involved explanation about curses or fairies or mitochlorions - people will get suspicious.
If your main character can see the date of a person's death when she looks into their eyes, you should just tiptoe out on stage, hand her that little piece of business, and then back off real nonchalant-like.
Like Rachel Ward does. Oh, Rachel Ward. Nicely done.
Rachel Ward's protagonist is a teenage girl who lives in a low-income London housing project with the latest in a series of foster mothers. Jem is the girls name. Jem - as I believe I mentioned - can see the date of a person's death when she looks in their eyes. Has seen these dates for as long as she can remember. Realized their significance the day her junkie mom died, and since then - well, Jem keeps her hood up and her head down.
Until she doesn't, of course - until she makes a friend for pretty much the first time ever in her life and they have juuuust a little bit of fun until whoops, there's danger and fugitivity and theft because otherwise we're reading like the hetero teen version of My Beautiful Laundrette and supposedly books like that don't play.
So instead we're doing the chav version of Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. Jem and her new friend run away to the country, where they are completely out of their element. So it's kind of Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose meets Withnail and I. And if you think that's a combo that you'll see in the teen section just any day of the week, you are wrong.
The very best thing about this book is its authenticity. Jem and Spider banter authentically. Spider's relationship with his nicotine-marinated grandmother is authentically loving and casual. Jem's appalled reaction to the British countryside (she throws up when she sees a cow poop) is brilliantly authentic.
And more: Jem's loneliness, the hopelessness that comes with her "gift" - which, face it, just stands in for the pragmatic fatalism that is an inevitable by-product of generational poverty - all these things are as real as rain as she and Spider drive, and run, and walk toward something that's going to happen. Jem knows when, but she doesn't know how.
Brilliant. Not to be missed.