Monday, July 19, 2010

Let's hear it for the boys!

Author: Holly Black
Released: May 4th, 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Copy provided by: Christinabean
# of pages: 310
Summary: Goodreads

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 façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade 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.

The main protagonist in this story is Cassel, the only 'normal' in a family of curse workers. His mother is in jail, his grandfather is a deathworker, - with the fingerless hand to prove it - and his brothers are goons for the local crime family. At the beginning of the story he is sent home from school for sleepwalking - out on to the roof. Cassel's main goal is to con his back into school, but along the way he encounters problems. When Cassel becomes aware that things are not quite as they seem, his confusion was realistic, and you appreciate his hesitation about involving non-workers to help him solve his problems. You know what it's like when you are sure something is wrong, but you just can't quite put your finger on it? While the family dynamics were not anything I am used to I found them to be believable within the context of the story. I enjoyed the pacing and managed to finish the book fairly quickly.

I am sure that this will appeal to the guys out there. While there are female characters, they are in the background and the mob parallels I'm sure will be a hit. Cassel is a bit of an underdog, and we all root for the underdog, right? It was an interesting take on magic and I quite enjoyed the mystery - great twist at the end. Don't get me wrong though, girls will enjoy this too. The cover shows that this is the first in a series, so I'm looking forward to further adventures with Cassel and his friends.

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