...[a] funny and charming new novel ... Gregory writes with humor and charm, offering up a rollicking and quick-paced plot tailor-made for summer, but what makes the novel magical is his exploration of what it means to harbor these gifts ... At times, Gregory speeds us through moments that should be lingered over or leaves loose ends untied. Other ends he ties too tightly ... But as with all novels, choices must be made, and the danger of creating such an enjoyable world is that it leaves a reader longing for more. In his acknowledgments, Gregory writes, 'None of it’s real, folks.' But his best trick is to make you believe it is.
It took me a while to adjust to some of the sleaziness the novel tries to sell as endearing — a teenage boy masturbating while spying on his cousin just isn't, regardless of whether or not it catalyzes his first out-of-body experience — and there were several annoying bumps early on where I resented being expected to empathize with well-meaning male voyeurs as they lied to women. But the story grows out of that, and becomes superbly engaging, balancing delightful wackiness with genuine tenderness throughout in a way reminiscent of Michael Chabon or Jonathan Lethem ... Ultimately, I'm impressed at how well Spoonbenders overcame a rocky start to leave me feeling as happy and satisfied as it did. Reading it is a bit like being tricked into a game of 52 Pick-Up only to watch the cards resolve, mid-air, into a Royal Flush.
It’s a riot of a plot, but one I had no trouble following. With a less skilled author, these characters might’ve grated on a reader. But with Gregory, each voice wins you over, and you root for each one even as they run headfirst into certain failure. Even though the action is never-ending, it’s fun, and the engaging plot is supported by a clever structure. I stayed up late into the night reading chapter after chapter, pulled in by yet another fantastic line that either made me laugh or gasp in surprise ... Through all the magic and the mob chases, Spoonbenders zeroes in on family bonds and love and deftly weaves quirk with real emotion. The greatest feat of this book is how it allowed me to relate to this crazy family even with my boring, non-psychic genetics. With characters like these, you’re bound to love one, and I’d wager you’ll end up loving them all.