"Dystopian fluff" -- it sounds kind of oxymoronic, doesn't it? It also perfectly describes James Patterson's young adult fantasy "Witch and Wizard," which basically transports the Harry Potter aesthetic to a totalitarian near-future. It's one of those stories that is overflowing with potential and/or promise, but in this case it's just a bone-thin plot clothed in 2-D characters and indifferent plot.
Wisty and her older brother Whit are dragged from their beds by New Order soldiers (and no, I don't mean the band), and accused of being a witch and a wizard. Unfortunately, their denials are sabotaged by Wisty suddenly bursting into flame. Soon the siblings find themselves being dragged into a living nightmare -- interrogation, absurd trials, a prison filled with similarly talented kids, and finally a sentence of execution.
But in a cruel New Order prison, Wisty and Whit's powers begin to expand exponentially (think more flames, drifting through solid walls, transformation, bug-summoning, etc). To escape, they'll have to take a trip into the world of the dead (which isn't too different from the world of the living) and join up with a secret resistance -- and discover the terrible plans of the New Order's leader, The One Who Is One.
"Witch and Wizard" is one of those books where it feels like the author just sat down over a long weekend and banged out a quickie manuscript. Patterson makes a few lame references to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson stories, but it's obvious that there was little enthusiasm in this story -- the entire Evil Dystopian FutureWorld sketched out here is no more than a series of blurry outlines and cliches, with no backstory and little development. Throw in some magical powers and a Big Magical Prophecy.
Patterson's lack of passion extends to the writing -- it's bland, pedestrian, and trickles along the outline of a rather boring plot. Whit and Wisty just sort of drift from one place to another, mostly with little description and not much humor. There's always a magical deus ex machina waiting around the next corner (apparently Wisty's MegaMagicalPowahz can literally do anything), and Patterson even weaves in a contrived cliffhanger that literally extends through the entire book.
What's more, his prose is tepid and humorless -- when the characters aren't talking like idiots ("It was like, boom--flamesicle!"), they're sounding like melodramatic TV actors ("you can't save them anyway...if you're dead!"). As for that "Tricks are for kids!" joke... not funny.
And the characters aren't much better. Wisty and Whit are utterly generic WASP teenagers who somehow never noticed that oh yeah, they're a witch and wizard. Everyone else is either good and pure (rebels against the New Order) or evil and sadistic trying to justify their nastiness (people working for the New Order), with the required Tattling Weasel and Evil Bald Tall Overlord.
"Witch and Wizard" is a bland, boring stretch of dystopian fantasy that makes you wish you could be entertained and excited, and feel vaguely disgusted that you're not.