Title: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
No. of Pages: 310
First Released: May 4, 2010
Synopsis (Courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers): “Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.”
Comments and Critique: Dark and tension-filled, White Cat banishes the teen angst that typifies young adult literature. In its stead is a delightfully sinister life-and-death struggle about life in a world that is just like our own, with extremely subtle albeit massive differences. It is a refreshing change from the more fluffy fare I typically find in this genre.
Ms. Black is masterful at generating sympathy for Cassel. He is mature beyond his years, even though his age is undetermined. As Cassel struggles to uncover the mysteries, the reader is left trying to uncover the mysterious new world where everyone wears gloves, the naked hand is cause for terror, and the threat of mob families hangs over everyone and everything. Just as the reader gets comfortable with this new world and with Cassel as the hero, Ms. Black springs new information on Cassel that shakes the reader’s faith in him to its core. It is a delicious twist that, while not necessarily completely surprising, is still shocking enough to have the reader questioning everything read to that point. This twist gets to the very heart of the story and problems Cassel faces. Better yet, it raises questions that everyone should ask at themselves at some point in time. Just how foolproof is our memory? Can we truly trust it? Should we? How does this extend to words on a page? Just what does it mean to trust?
In all, Ms. Black has created a world of subtlety, where growing up appears to hold the same drama, mood swings, and issues that teens everywhere face. Underneath that shallow surface lies a world much more sinister and dangerous than one can initially fathom. White Cat contains mystery and danger, questions about human nature, and a cast of memorable characters that will quickly make it popular among fans of young adult literature everywhere.
Thank you to Lucille Rettino of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for my advance reader’s copy!