The Curse Workers, Book 1: White Cat
by Holly Black
If the teens in your life enjoyed Holly Black’s Tithe and its companion faerie tales, they will be equally as impressed by the characters in White Cat, who inhabit an entirely different world. “We are largely who we remember ourselves to be,” says 17-year-old narrator Cassel Sharpe. His statement takes on a chilling irony in the author’s darkly brilliant launch to the Curse Workers series. Cassel, who counts his skills as a con artist as his greatest talent, feels overshadowed by his curse worker family. In a world in which the touch of a worker’s ungloved hand can manipulate their marks’ emotions, conjure dreams, erase memories or transform them from human to inanimate object, Cassel’s family descends from curse workers on both sides. His grandfather, a death worker (he can zap the life out of his victims with his bare hands), and brothers are aligned with the Zacharov family, one of six big worker families that divvy up turf like the Mob. Never mind that curse work has been forbidden since 1929, and the governor of New Jersey is championing a proposition for compulsory testing of all citizens to see if they are workers (to remain strictly confidential, of course).
Cassel is just trying to lead a “normal” existence at Wallingford Preparatory. But that life is called into question when, in the opening scene, Cassel sleepwalks onto the roof of his dorm and nearly falls to his death. He doesn’t remember how he got up to the roof, and he’s plagued by dreams of a white cat and also by memories of having killed Zacharov’s daughter, Lila, three years before. He just can’t remember why he killed her--especially because he had been in love with her. Lila was a dream worker—can the two be connected somehow? Every new discovery seems to illuminate a corner of the shadowy mystery surrounding Lila’s murder. Black injects plenty of humor, too. For instance, there is “blowback” for every curse performed, and family friend Uncle Armen has Alzheimer’s as a result of his career as a memory worker. Black also fully imagines in sentient detail the experience of the curses and their fallout. Romance, betrayal, and the question of whether or not families are born or made are just some of the themes that will keep teens turning pages. While White Cat is a complete work, snatches of back story and tensions built into certain key relationships promise plenty more in future installments.