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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail--he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams of 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.
This is a book that, when discussing, quickly reduces me to flailing wildly and babbling, "IT'S SO GOOD!" over and over. Because it really is.
It's no secret that I love fantasy books. But my favorite subgenre is urban fantasy, where magic and the supernatural is woven into everday life. Holly Black has that mastered. As I read about curse workers and how they fit into the United States' past and present, I was very nearly convinced that it made perfect sense and was actually true. Brilliance!
Cassel is a fantastic protagonist. He is incredibly smart, but his confidence sometimes causes him to make dangerously dumb moves. He is part of a family of conmen and mobsters, and the relationships between Cassel and his grandfather, mother, and brothers are just heartbreakingly realistic. There is love and loyalty in the family along with a scarily large amount of deception and sometimes hatred.
The plot is twisty and the surprises are often gasp-worthy. This was the second time I read White Cat, and I was pleased to see all the clues laid out to those clever enough to notice them. This book could easily be read as a standalone, but it will have a sequel, Red Glove, on April 5th. In my opinion, a story that is completed but is open to successive stories is the best way to write a series, so thank you, Holly Black!
*Bonus* For my second reading, I actually listened to the White Cat audiobook. Jesse Eisenberg is the narrator, and he became Cassel seamlessly. Crush on Jesse Eisenberg is now official.
Five out of five protective gloves.
Release Date: May 2010
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL BLA
Don't believe me? Check out these reviews of White Cat:
New York Public Library