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Publisher: Cantina Publishing (2015)
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Can a middle-aged, hip statistician find the perfect boyfriend in Washington’s Emerald City? Maybe with the help of her magic iPhone!

On this quirky journey through and around Seattle our heroine, Morena’s accompanied by two strange, but well-meaning sidekicks. Morena’s best friend/roommate, Suzyn, a twenty-something, aspiring photographer from New York, who likes to dance, get drunk, and get high; Magic Man, is an undercover, 6,000-year-old elf, who only wants to fit it with the humans around him. Also, a mysterious Green Man, who seems to be nearby wherever Morena goes, but whom she never notices, adds a note of mystery.

After a breezy false start in which the narrator chats the reader up, like a neighbor over mid-morning coffee and Danish, the real story begins.

One morning, Morena discovers a package on her kitchen table. Her ex-boyfriend, who “never sent her a single gift,” before their “horrid break-up,” has now sent her an iPhone—and it just so happens the phone is magic. It has only one app, designed for finding the right mate—and Morena, with her biological clock ticking, longs for love. She is searching for a soul mate—as long as it doesn’t take a lot of effort. She enjoys her current lifestyle, so, the right man would have to not only conveniently drop into her life, but also fit into her life. That iPhone may have been the perfect gift.

The reader journeys with Morena, her magic phone in hand, on Seattle’s buses and light rail, into various neighborhoods, coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants, as well as to neighboring communities. Cracked! . . . introduces a plethora of geeks, freaks, “funky hipsters,” story gamers, “hipsters playing at being gamers  . . . ,” anonymous drug dealers, and more. Along the way, the reader may learn some street slang while being apprised of the go-to (for whatever you want) places in that urban area.

Particularly entertaining and interesting are the forays into the story gaming world, where the gaming part counted as a respectably nerdy pursuit, and the story part counted as creative . A fun feature of the story is that it is a microcosm of Seattle life: giving its readers a chance to interact with some odd characters, but still not have to be friends with them.”

While some may find Cracked! to be somewhat thin on plot, it’s heavy on atmosphere and setting, which is captivatingly authentic. Southard’s hip and cool characters are multi-dimensional and memorable. As a stylistic technique, the intrusive and opinionated omniscient narrator is sometimes informative and amusing, but at other times, can be distracting. However, always fun!

Overall, Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story provides an insider view of Seattle, its denizens, and some of their various activities and belief systems, that contribute to its unique culture. It’s a fun read in a much too serious world.