TITLE: White Cat: The Curse Workers
AUTHOR: Holly Black
SUMMARY: The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty—he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas— and a plan to con the conmen. (via amazon.com)
BRIDGE: Black’s first in this series could be used in several ways. The most obvious bridge would be to use this book in conjunction with studying organized crime. This is a new take on The Family and even though it takes place in an alternate reality, the parallels to organized crime are definitely there. Paired with other nonfiction texts about organized crime like Surviving the Mob Dennis Griffin or Five Crime Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires Selwyn Raab, students could construct “family trees” of Cassel’s family and crime community and then compare them to the infrastructure of real-life crime organizations. It would be an exercise in research and comparison. While the first person point of view gives great insight into Cassel’s character, few of the other characters are developed well enough to do character analyses but the intricacies of the plot would be interesting to chart. The holes in Cassel’s memory are eventually filled in and creating a linear sequence of events would be fun as a group-project/scavenger hunt. It might be interesting to also research the intricacies of memory and the implications behind tampering with someone’s memory. And as a small aside, since Cassel runs a betting business on the side, math students could practice calculating odds and maybe even creating a fake gambling ring in the classroom – IF s/he felt the administration would be ok with that.
READERS: Fans of scheming and clever plot twists will enjoy this book. It appeals to both readers with a sensitive side as Cassel struggles with his family relationships as well as those less sentimental readers who will enjoy the crime and mild violence. Fans of fantasy and contemporary fiction will both like this book since Black has set this world as an overlay of our own.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book will also enjoy The Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.