Margaret K. McElderry, May 2010
Hardcover, 320 pages
Ages: 14 and up
Grades: 9 and up
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.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love -- or death -- and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
White Cat is the first book in the new series by Holly Black (click here for more info and to read an excerpt)
My first impression was: I love the name for this character "Cassel", it seemed very unusual. My second impression came from the flashbacks, going from past to present, making you feel a little disoriented as you're reading. In saying that, this method provides the background information needed to understand this alternate reality that Holly Black has created. It was a firm base for how The Workers have evolved, how the government sees them, and how the lesser elements of society work around the restrictions. This will bode well moving into the next book.
There are many mentions throughout the story about lying and how to be successful at it. Many of these lessons struck a nerve with me, having been exposed to someone in real life with this poor character attribute. But, I understood Cassel's lifestyle better as a result of my own exposure. I was also more aware that the lying is a cover for his insecurities and his lack of talent compared to the rest of his family. I felt for this boy though; his inability to trust even his own family made my empathy that much greater. He had been raised specifically to harness his inner con-man.
There were moments when I felt this story bordered on a much more mature level. There's one scene in particular that had such sexual energy about it that felt older beyond their years (they're supposed to be 14 years old at the time). It may have even leaned a little on the Dom/Sub side. I enjoyed the chemistry shared between Cassel and Lila, but just wished that they had been a little older at this point. In discussing this with Mel at He Followed Me Home, she mentioned how the criminal element may have made them grow up faster. It's a good point, so we'll go with that as the reason behind this :-)
Overall, I did really like this book and am looking forward to see where these characters go next. It's left with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I'll need to work on my patience, but I think Holly Black has a winner of a series ahead of her.