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 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.
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 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. 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 out-con the conmen. (Goodreads)
“White Cat” by Holly Black
Release date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 320 pages
A few years ago I met author Holly Black, it was just after the “Spiderwick Chronicles” movie came out. My impression: what a super-cool chick, but I’m not interested in middle-grade-readers right now. So when I discovered the “Curse Worker ” series while browsing my local bookstore a few weeks ago, I knew I had to give it a try.
Ms. Black did not disappoint. Cool chicks write some pretty cool books.
Enter Cassel, who is about as cool as they come. He’s hiding out at a private high school trying to act like a normal guy. But he so isn’t.
He’s the youngest brother in a family of Curse Workers — people who have special abilities to make you lucky, change your emotions, etc. with just a touch. In this alternate version of America (specifically, New Jersey), everyone wears gloves to protect themselves. And the curse workers have been forced to hide their abilities or go underground — finding work with powerful mob families.
You can’t help but root for Cassel. Similar to Sam from the Shiver series, Cassel has all the right intentions, but he’s in a very screwed up situation. Sometimes I just thought he could use a hug or some genuine support. He’s also got a complicated past, which includes murdering Lila, the girl he had a major crush on. (In flashbacks, she doesn’t seem so desirable, but maybe she improves.)
White Cat is only the first book of the series and I wasn’t convinced I’d love it. Noir, mobsters, curses, thriller — not stuff I’m usually drawn to. But I love the way Ms. Black doesn’t give you the full picture — but enough that you don’t get too frustrated with being left in the dark. I can’t wait to read Red Glove, which is next.