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The Lightness of Hands


Sixteen-year-old Ellie Dante is desperate for something in her life to finally go right. Her father was a famous stage magician until he attempted an epic illusion on live TV—and failed. Now Ellie lives with her dad in a beat-up RV, attending high school online and performing with him at birthday parties and bars across the Midwest to make ends meet.

But when the gigs dry up, their insurance lapses, leaving Dad’s heart condition unchecked and forcing Ellie to battle her bipolar II disorder without medication.

Then Ellie receives a call from a famous magic duo, who offer fifteen thousand dollars and a shot at redemption: they want The Uncanny Dante to perform the illusion that wrecked his career—on their live TV special, which shoots in Los Angeles in ten days.

Ellie knows her dad will refuse—but she takes the deal anyway, then lies to persuade him to head west. With the help of her online-only best friend and an unusual guy she pairs up with along the way, Ellie makes a plan to stage her dad’s comeback. But when her lie is exposed, she’ll have to confront her illness and her choices head-on to save her father—and herself.

“A realistic, startling portrait of what it’s like for a high school girl with bipolar II…an unforgettable tale.”

—⭐️ School Library Journal, Starred Review

“In THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS, Jeff Garvin has created magic—but it’s no sleight-of-hand. This book is a gripping, moving, heart-filled triumph. You’ll want to give it a standing ovation.”

—Jeff Zentner, Morris Award Winning Author of THE SERPENT KING and GOODBYE DAYS

“Equal parts caper, road trip, heartbreak, and coming-of-age, THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS is  a knockout of a book.  Readers will root for Ellie and her magical story until the very last page.”

—Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times Bestselling Author of GIRL IN PIECES

“In the LIGHTNESS OF HANDS—a heart-breaking novel about a girl coming of age under the most difficult of circumstances—Jeff Garvin pulls off the ultimate magic trick: an impossible to put down, moving story of survival and love.”

—Julie Buxbaum, New York Times bestselling author of TELL ME THREE THINGS and HOPE AND OTHER PUNCHLINES

“Garvin’s portrayal of Ellie’s bipolar experience is exceptional; the world of magic is also superbly rendered… Very, very good.”


“Garvin (Symptoms of Being Human) uses his knowledge of magic and personal experience with bipolarism to add insight to this dramatic story as he skillfully evokes the traveling performers’ gritty lifestyle and the enticement of illusion.”

—Publishers Weekly

“…A sprawling, elaborate story…a beacon beaming out the message that life with mental illness is always worth living.”