YA author, Erika Lewis, introduces a variation of the Harry Potter series filled with magic, sorcery, and a Hogwarts-like institution: The Academy of the Unbreakable Arts. As we travel through the tale of the main character, Kelcie Murphy, we question what home truly is and how it builds our identity. While Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts allows readers to think deeply about the world around them and their own individual lives, it lacks originality as it is nearly identical to the Harry Potter series.
Kelcie was raised in Boston, in what the sorcerers in the book deem the Human World. She was passed on to several foster families throughout her childhood, and like many foster children, Kelcie dealt with uncaring families who treated her with cruelty and inhumanity. Throughout the book, she constantly mentions that she doesn’t like to remember “those times,” emphasizing the trauma her experiences left her with. However, they have also made her a responsible young person. At just 12 years old, Kelcie thinks ahead, knows how to defend herself, and is independent. Her background is very similar to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter, who grew up with an unfair aunt and uncle who mistreat him within their home.
The book is easy to follow and suits readers across different levels. Anyone aged 10 and above can comfortably read the material and understand the plot. The book is creative because it builds its own glossary, getting readers acquainted with its “Otherworld” ideals, which are drawn from real world mythologies. Lewis creates her own magical race, “the Fomorians,” who come from an Irish legend and who are destructive forces of nature. Lewis’ writing connects readers on an emotional level to Kelcie, Brona, Zephyr, and Niall as they embark on their painful yet exhilarating journey to secure their spot as second year students at the Academy. For example, the book touches on disability awareness, as Niall, one of Kelcie’s friends within the group, has a missing arm. When Kelcie and the rest of her fianna, or group, were on one of their expeditions, Niall managed to tend to Brona’s hurt leg. Kelcie narrates, “Niall wasn't missing an arm. The rest of the planet had an extra” (263). This line really hits deep and brings visibility to those with disabilities. We realize that physical differences don't have to hinder your strength and accomplishments.
This book offers a lot in a small package, in something that seems like just a story. There are hidden lessons that tackle moral and ethical questions within the chapters of Kelcie Murphy and the Academy of the Unbreakable Arts. Erika Lewis brings hope within these pages, especially to today’s children who are emerging from pandemic life. It’s important to remind our youth that goals can be accomplished and that hardship can result in ease and happiness in the future through Kelcie’s perseverance. It teaches that hard work is worth the long days and sleepless nights.
Despite its strong messages and powerful characters, this story resembles J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in almost every aspect, from Kelcie’s connection to both the human and magic worlds to the personalities of the staff at the Academy of the Unbreakable Arts. For example, Madame Le Deux, a foreign teacher at the Academy of the Unbreakable Arts, takes on the role of a combination of Rowling’s Remus Lupin and Professor Trelawney, merging Lupin’s knowledge and Trelwany’s accent to form this new Le Deux’s persona. In addition ,the live-in campus creates a bond between Kelcie and her fianna, which closely resembles Potter’s inseparable friend group. While it’s natural for an author to take inspiration from another, Lewis’s plot is so similar to Rowling’s that readers can easily make predictions while reading the text, eliminating the anticipation and originality of the book’s cliff-hangers. Harry Potter fans can skip the middle of the story and go straight to the end, and can easily assume what they missed. The worst part is that they would most likely assume correctly.
While the plot is exceedingly similar to Harry Potter, it’s important to recognize that this story dives deep into the understanding of the meaning of home and self-identity as Kelcie learns to adapt to the world of magic and sorcery. While it is evident that she feels a sense of belonging with her newly discovered identity of the magical world, her memories often drift back to snowy, wintry Boston. Kelcie Murphy and the Academy of the Unbreakable Arts tests friendship and loyalty. It even has a little bit of childhood romance. Erika Lewis almost perfects the potion. She’s missing just one ingredient: authenticity.