After the kids and I finished Mockingjay, I was looking for something to listen to in the car for the three of us. White Cat was well-reviewed by Beth Fish Reads, it was written by Holly Black of the Spiderwick Chronicles, and who could resist that cover? So sultry with all that black leather against that beautiful feline. And, after all, I sort of feel like I am the White Cat blog, with Casper the freak-show as my mascot.
Synopsis: Cassel Sharpe is the only "non-gifted" member of a family of curse-workers...a motley crew of folks that can alter memory, manipulate emotions, and even kill with their powers. Cassel desperately wants to fit in with his private school classmates, and does a decent job by being a pretty good con artist and dorm bookie, but is haunted by vague memories of killing his best friend Lila several years ago. He keeps his secrets to himself.
When Cassel wakes up on the roof of a school building, presumably from sleep-walking, things really start to get strange. Something is fishy with his brothers. Have they been performing memory curses? Why is his sister-in-law acting addled? Why does he keep having these strange dreams about Lila, posing as a white cat, telling him that he is the only one who can break the curse? He is also nervous and suspicious about his family's connection with the organized crime syndicate, who use illegal curse working for monetary gain.
My thoughts: I found the whole premise of this first installment of The Curse Workers Trilogy (of course it's a trilogy) very creative. Instead of drugs being the driving force behind organized crime, it is curse work, because it is dangerous and illegal. Black does a respectable job of developing this alternative world of mind games and manipulation and the struggle for power.
I became very fond of Cassel. His character was a complicated maze of teenage hormones, faltering self-esteem and cockiness. His geeky-cool school friends reminded me of something from Napoleon Dynamite, and I look forward to hanging with them a little more. There were many other characters, though, that were shallow and two-dimensional - Cassel's grandfather, his brothers and Lila. There were hints of interesting history beneath the surface, just there to excite me, but it was kept at arm's length. Perhaps Black is saving something for installments 2 and 3?
To Black's credit, she didn't leave us in the middle of a cliff-hanger, which I think is a cheap tactic to get us back for the second installment (titled "Red Glove, which she is still writing). I'd be happy to come back without any of that strong-arming. My son and I really enjoyed the story...it didn't blow us away but we were entertained. My daughter stopped listening somewhere in the middle. She thought it was "weird and confusing", her words.
My daughter is right, the plot is a bit twisted. There were a few times when I wasn't sure what was going on, but just allowed myself to go with the flow. There was some language - nothing too shocking though. There was also some kissing and one close situation, but no sex or reference to sex. I felt comfortable with my 11 year old listening.
A few words about the audio production: This audio was narrated by actor Jesse Eisenberg, who is probably most known for his leading role in "The Social Network". Even though he is in his late twenties, he has a very young-sounding voice and lent itself to the spirit of Cassel's personality. He talked a little too fast, and did not use much inflection, which could be his style, or could be inexperience in narration. But after a disc or two, we got used to it.
Me: 3.5 out of 5 stars
My son: 4 out of 5 stars
My daughter: 2 out of 5 stars