“Andromeda Klein” by Frank Portman

Headstand w/Andromeda Klein

I barely knew it existed–I’d seen a blurb about it the week before–when C at Big Brain pressed it into my hands. It was Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman, the author of King Dork, which I liked exceedingly a few years back.

Andromeda the book, and Andromeda the main character, are similar to King Dork’s. She’s an outsider with few friends. Those she has aren’t always reliable. Someone close to her has died, and she has difficulty dealing with her parents.

Now that I type that, I realize how many teens that can describe.

Andromeda is a self-taught occult and tarot expert. I’ll offer fair warning here: those uncomfortable with details of the occult and magick with a “k” are not going to like this book and probably shouldn’t read it. I was surprised by how much, and how deep, the details of Andromeda’s occult practices and knowledge went. There are passages about demons, conjuring, body modification, ghosts, and spirit-world communication.

That said, I found this a fascinating book. Portman presents Andromeda’s studies in a fair, informative way. It’s not devil worship, or (intentional) demon conjuring. Rather, it’s an ancient and varied tradition that seeks knowledge and understanding of the self and the universe–rather like religion. If you feel there’s more than one path up the mountain, and are interested in tarot as well as a good young adult mystery novel, I think you’ll really enjoy Andromeda Klein, the book and the character.

Anyone observing Andromeda Klein from a distance at that moment would simply have seen a slender teenage girl on a bicycle splashing through puddles; any who happened to glimpse the face looking out of the black zip sweatshirt’s hood might have noted a tense, rather worried expression. But anyone reading her mind would no doubt have been taken aback by the confused riot of arcane images to be found within. A limitless host of glyphs, sigils, images, and mathematical processes unfolded from the Two of Swords…

Life is complicated enough because Andromeda has something called “disorganized collagen”. It makes her body and especially her hearing out of whack. (It does, though, make for an entertaining lexicon of misheard phrases, such as bacon for pagan, vacuum for bathroom, and spinach U-turn for Finnish Lutheran.) Further, her friend and occult “sister” Daisy recently passed away, and her friend Rosalie is a bundle of bad news: steals a car that can only be driven in reverse, schedules drinking parties for her friends when parents are away, and tries to set up Andromeda with weird guys. Andromeda’s mother is controlling and intrusive; her father is depressive. And she’s recently broken up with someone she calls “St. Steve” and feels really bad about it.

This book was often sad, but also funny and singular. Andromeda has a strong, unique and humorous character voice. It’s easy to feel for Andromeda, and hope things turn out well for her. There’s no neat and tidy happy ending, but there’s a satisfyingly complex one that gives a lot of credit to its readers by leaving some things to the imagination. I was completely involved in this book till I put it down; it’s an involving and engaging character and story.

For more, Andromeda has her own theme song, as Portman is a punk rock musician. Largehearted Boy has a set list for the book.

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