Without any substantial spoilers, I've got some things I need to say right off the bat. I'll admit it: this book made me super nervous for the first half. When the main character, Aspen, kicks off the story by using his powers to manipulate a girl into a relationship with him I felt all sorts of queasy. (Not really a spoiler as this happens in the first couple pages.) Aspen's behavior kept edging into territory I found really gross, and as I've never read Ribar before I wasn't certain I could trust where she was going. I'm happy to say that in the end she proved herself, at least to me.
You could read this book in a lot of different ways. I believe at its core it is about how different people go about coping with difficult emotions, how we manipulate the people around us (especially those we care about), and how the ways we teach children/teens to deal with their emotions and problems can twist them into unhealthy adults. I also think you could throw in a "Smash toxic masculinity!" reading, but that might just be me.
There are a few mysteries to be solved, but they take a backseat to Aspen and his internal struggles. He's not often a likable character (at least not to me), but he is often a relatable one, as well as at times an amusing one. The magic system is interesting, and makes for some fertile moral grounds, which are explored. The small town feels familiar and strange all at once. The plot moves forward at a good pace, and reaches a satisfying conclusion. And, most satisfying of all, the lessons learned are excellent ones.
All in all this made for a fast read, with some decent meat on the bones to chew on. I'd read Ribar again, and I'm looking forward to putting this in the hands of any teenage boys (or girls really, though to a lesser degree) I find roaming my bookstore.