Monday, November 8, 2010

White Cat

When I saw a book by Holly Black on the shelf of new books in the YA section at the library, I picked it up even though it says it's book one of a series called The Curse Workers, and I've gotten a bit leery of anything that advertises itself as the first of a series. But I like her YA series Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside enough to try almost anything else she writes. I haven't read the Spiderwick books, for younger readers, but I did see the movie and thought it was mildly entertaining.

Anyway, this new book is entitled White Cat; it begins with the first-person narrator, Cassel Sharpe, in a number of tight spots, and proceeds to rapidly tighten them and sharpen your curiosity about how he got into them until you've read the whole short book in one quick gulp.

Cassel is like Sam in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer in that he is horrified to think that he could have the power to do evil. He's like Artemis Fowl in being born into a family situation that requires him to be underhanded and sly, and often on the wrong side of the law. He's like any good YA hero in being able to find his own way with the help of some friends, and to assert his own will in opposition to the will of some of his family members. And that's about all I can tell you about this novel, because it's full of secrets, and one secret is built on top of another, and they're fun to discover.

Just be warned--little that Cassel thinks he knows about the world turns out to be true, in the end. He warns you early on that
"I spend most of my time at school faking and lying. It takes a lot of effort to pretend you're something you're not. I don't think about what music I like; I think about what music I should like. When I had a girlfriend, I tried to convince her I was the guy she wanted me to be. When I'm in a crowd, I hang back until I can figure out how to make them laugh. Luckily, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's faking and lying."

One of the delights of reading the novel is how true that turns out to be, and how sometimes, especially for a young adult, faking and lying is how you can begin to fulfill your potential for greatness.

Haven't you ever faked your way towards becoming as confident and brilliant as you wanted to appear?


Amanda said...

You know, Tithe sort of turned me off of anything else Holly Black has written...I don't know, I just can't seem to get into anything else of hers. It all turns me off just looking at it.

Jeanne said...

Amanda, Black definitely appeals more to teenage girls than to boys. Eleanor and I just got the Zombie vs Unicorn story collected she and Justine Larbalestier edited.

FreshHell said...

Dusty read some (but maybe not all) of the Spiderwick books. She liked them but we haven't seen the movie. As for your question: yes. Every moment of every day when I have to be around people, esp people I don't know well. My views on things differ from most people I am around and I'm still learning how to NOT roll my eyes when people talk nonsense about things that are just b.s. I'm much more at easy alone.

kiirstin said...

I specifically recall a moment from my YA years when I thought: I am going to a new school where nobody knows me. I can be someone else; I don't have to be who I am.

It met with mixed success. I faked it until I partially made it, and then I realized that inventing an identity only worked if it jived with one's own morals and interests anyways.

I really liked the Spiderwick books. Very fun, pretty interesting, and very well-written.

FreshHell said...

You'll find this amusing (maybe): In elementary and middle school, I used to tell people I was born in Ohio because it sounded much more interesting to say, Yeah, I've lived every second of my existence here in Richmond,VA. I wanted to seem a bit more exotic. So I chose Ohio. :)

FreshHell said... say that than to say, Yeah...

God, Monday is wrecking my brain.

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, your first response reminds me of an old Paul Simon song about "fakin' it...I'm not really makin' it..."
Your second made me laugh out loud--Ohio exotic? Is that why it's featured as the place the Out-of-Towners are from in every remake?!!

Kiirsten, What you did at the new school is something I often suggest to first-year college students when I call their names from the roster the first time. "If you've gone by a nickname all your life and you want to be known by your full name or by a middle name or something, this is a point at which you can start," I say.
I think there are many points at which we can invent a new identity that is consistent with our morals and interests--I think of doing that as finding a new image of myself to live up to.

Trapunto said...

I read this last month--or rather, listened to the audio, which got the royal treatment with Jesse Eisenberg. You know when you can tell the actor is really into the story? It was cute. What a good boy.

I'm like you with Holly Black, I'll read anything after Tithe, though I didn't like Valiant or Ironside quite as well. It was great how sympathetic yet in some ways outright unappealing she made Cassel. Fantasy and con artistry and the mafia made a surprisingly tasty combination in her hands, with hoarding for spice; she managed not to overplay any of it--and I'm saying this as the kind of person who finds organized crime mind-numbingly boring in fiction; don't get the mystique at all, I couldn't even watch the Godfather. The glove thing was amusing, too. Great device for covert sexiness in a YA book.

Trapunto said...

That is a great question by the way. I remember very clearly that I was in 5th grade when I was telling an aunt about a problem with a difficult (autocratic and interfering, actually) adult, and she said something along the lines of, "well, you just have to use your acting skills, to seem like whatever it is you want them to treat you as." It was a revelation. (The same aunt took me to a restaurant and instructed me in how to order and tip and pay the bill around the same time, so I would know how one did that with adult aplomb.) It always astonishes me when I meet people who never adopted the philosophy that you just have "brazen it out" sometimes--there isn't an aunt to show you everything. How do they do anything? But maybe it is something about actory-families, and the brazening is the exception.

Jeanne said...

Trapunto, I'm with you about not getting the mystique of mafia movies--I've never watched The Godfather either. You, me, and Ron may be the last three adults on the planet who haven't.

Was your aunt named Mame? Kind of sounds like it.

Ron Griggs said...

When she goes, she's gone.
If she stays, she stays here.
The girl does what she wants to do.
She knows what she wants to do.
And I know I'm fakin' it,
I'm not really makin' it.

-- Simon & Garfunkel
Fakin' It from Bookends

Isn't this the song that every teenager knows is true? And don't most of us, at whatever age, still believe it?

Jeanne said...

Ron, I've always thought those lyrics were saying that girls look more sure of themselves than guys feel.

Trapunto said...

Lady Catherine Mame de Bourgh

Jeanne said...

Trapunto, with one flick of your metaphorical pen, you draw a quite complete picture!

Jodie said...

Ahhh your warning has made me more excited about this book. Everything he thinks he knows isn't true? Cool.

Jeanne said...

Jodie, yes. Be suspicious.