What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this series starter features violence that is disturbing at times. Some characters self-mutilate as an act of penance for wrongful deeds. The main character, Cassel is manipulated into killing others. He is repeatedly belittled and betrayed by his brothers and a close family friend who use physical and emotional abuse to get him to do things he doesn't want to do. Most of the characters drink alcohol. The main character's granddad is an alcoholic who frequently drinks until he passes out. People smoke cigarettes and a stranger does "a line of coke" in the bathroom at a party. There's a reference to kids doing LSD.
What's the story?
Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers -- powerful people who can apply magic with the touch of their bare hands. Cassel has no powers of his own, but his mother can make anyone fall in love with her, while one of his brothers, Barron, can alter memories. In fact, all his family members are curse workers. And while it is illegal to perform curse work in the states, he begins to suspect he's been worked: His brothers have led him to believe that he has killed his childhood friend and longtime love, Lila. Although he has no recollection of doing so, Cassel vividly remembers standing over her body, knife in hand and covered in blood. Later, he wakes to find himself hanging on the edge of a roof in his underwear after dreaming of chasing a white cat. When Cassel is suspended from school for psychological instability, he decides to unravel the mystery of the white cat that's been following him. He must retrace his steps to figure out who he can really trust and to satisfy his unanswered questions about what really happened to Lila.
Is it any good?
Holly Black fans know that she's a wonderful mystery writer with a wild imagination. Here, she offers a story of love, betrayal, and trust, and readers will feel both anxiety and empathy for characters who are taken advantage of. Although her novel starts slowly, it accelerates toward the book's conclusion with unexpected surprises. There is a lot of plot to follow here, and the narrator's memory loss makes following the story even more challenging. But teens willing to do a close reading will be rewarded. They will feel their adrenaline rush as each chapter takes an unforeseen turn -- and anxiously await the next installment, Red Glove.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the violence in this book. Do the fantasy elements make the intensity easier to handle? Are the descriptions of violence in this book necessary to get the full impact of Cassel's story?
How is violence in a book different than violence in a video game or movie? Is it more or less disturbing?