Title: Samantha, 25, on October 31
Author: Adam Bertocci
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: 50 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 5 Stars
Samantha hates her job, her debt and her general circumstances, and if that weren’t enough, her first post-pandemic Halloween isn’t shaping up to be any fun. Unenthused about the prospect of another day (and week and month and year) stuck working in a boring health food store, Samantha hopes that dressing as a witch will help recapture the magic in her life… or at least conjure up a little Halloween fun.
But when a mysterious black cat crosses her path, Samantha’s holiday hijinks take a turn for the weird, culminating in a spooky confrontation with the scariest horror of all: her own future.
Award-winning writer and filmmaker Adam Bertocci has been praised by Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, The New Republic, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Back Stage, Broadway World, E!, Maxim, IGN, Wired, Film Threat and more. This wistful-yet-witchy short story explores the mysteries of improvised cat care, growing up, and what’s really important in life.
Content Warning: Witches and witchcraft. This is also set during the Covid-19 pandemic and contains a few references to things like social distancing, proper hand washing, and wearing a face mask in public. No one caught Covid during the storyline, though.
Halloween magic is for everyone.
This novella captured the frustration of working in retail or other dead-end jobs perfectly. Even though she was grateful to have work when so many others were laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic, Samantha was bored and restless at Esterbrook’s Natural Market. Her history degree hadn’t panned out the way she hoped they would, and she couldn’t see how her circumstances would change for the foreseeable future. I had a lot of sympathy for her and was curious to see if her dreams would finally come true. This wasn’t something I was expecting to find in a spooky Halloween read, but it fit the themes perfectly.
Samantha was a likeable and intelligent protagonist. She was the sort of person I’d love to be friends with in real life. I enjoyed seeing how one of her biggest flaws, her tendency to ramble on when other people were hoping she’d give them a clear yes or no as a response, changed the course of her destiny. It’s always nice to see characters who are given genuine challenges to overcome and whose weaknesses make a meaningful difference to the plot.
One of the biggest reasons why I chose a five-star review had to do with how the fantasy elements of the plot were handled. Yes, I know that sentence is a vague one, but I need to be careful how I word this in order to avoid spoilers, but Mr. Bertocci did a marvellous job of playing around with the audience’s expectations of how witches should behave and how a fantasy story should unfold. He clearly knew this genre well and wasn’t afraid to turn certain tropes upside down in order to keep me guessing. Bravo for that!
Samantha, 25, on October 31 was perfect.