White Cat (Curse Workers) — YA urban fantasy by Holly Black
I had a hard time getting into this book at first because (A) it opened in a prep school, and as a rule I dislike novels set in prep schools, and (B) the protagonist was really unlikeable. It was revealed in the first chapter that at the age of 14 he’d murdered his girlfriend, for reasons he didn’t understand, and his family had somehow covered it up and sent him to this prep school. So from the start I was thinking, why would I want to read about this person? I hate him.
Still, I like to give every book at least 50 pages before I give up on it, so I forced myself through a chapter a day, telling myself I’d let myself abandon it when I got to 50 pages, and would you believe that by the time I’d gotten to 50 pages I’d fallen in love with the book?
I don’t want to spoil much, because the book had a lot of really interesting twists and turns, but what he thinks happened to his girlfriend is not exactly what happened. Some very strange things are going on.
This book is the first of the Curse Workers series. The premise is that one in a thousand people are born with the ability to work curses on other people, only it’s illegal, so the “workers” inevitably end up involved in organized crime. Our protagonist is a nonworker born into a worker family. His father is dead, his mother’s in jail, his grandfather is a death worker employed by a crime family. His brothers are workers too, so he’s kind of the outsider.
When the book opens, he wakes up to find himself on top of a roof and in danger of falling–he’s been sleepwalking and suspects he may have been cursed. But why?
This is a rather dark book, but absolutely fascinating once it gets going. Dialogue is particularly strong; there are some laugh-out-loud lines. After I read this book myself, I read it to my 13-year-old son, and he had the same reaction as me. Didn’t like it for the first few chapters, then got hooked and read the rest compulsively, followed by the sequel, which is equally good.