Magic for Liars
If you're deciding to read--or deciding not to read--Magic for Liars based on the impression that it's somehow related to Harry Potter, discard that consideration. There are some similarities, but while this is a book about kids who discover they're magical and go off to magic school, it's written for grownups. The adolescent characters in it are seen with a merciful clarity that only comes after one has been an adult for many years. It's full of serious themes like grief and inadequacy in the face of the mortality of the person you love most in the world, and the characters in it behave in serious adult ways that involve hurting themselves and other people.
I did, in the end, really like this book. It was hard to read, harder than I was expecting it to be, and there was more than one point where I nearly put it down. The main character is intensely flawed, and I got this overwhelming sense of inability to cope with the difficulty of the world that resonated pretty painfully with my own life experiences. But in the end, that difficulty and pain made the book worth reading.
I really liked that nothing about this book is predictable. I've been so hungry for stories that deal with the 'some people inherit magic in their blood' trope in fresh, radical ways that I actually started writing a book that takes up that theme and runs with it. My book goes in an entirely different direction, but I like to think that someday it'll be on a shelf display beside Magic for Liars.
Maybe I take back my first suggestion: if you're thinking of reading this book because you've heard it's somehow related to Harry Potter, do it. This is a magic school murder mystery that takes itself, and the reader, seriously. And that produces a damn fine book that lives up to the standard HP itself doesn't quite meet.