Alexa's Reviews > White Cat

White Cat by Holly Black
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May 23, 14

bookshelves: ya, magic, series
Read from May 14 to 22, 2014

There are not a lot of books out there that are so effective from start to finish the way White Cat is. It’s a clean 300+ pages, and every scene, every sentence really, does an extraordinary amount of work. It tightly weaves an intricate plot with a dysfunctional family dynamic, all around this teenage boy, Cassel Sharpe, who is both a con man and a mark, a curse worker and not. Even his race is ambiguous. Cassel is always simultaneously in and out of everything. But I was fully into this book.

It’s really hard to talk about how good White Cat is. It’s just so solid. The characters are fascinating and dynamic, the plot is rich. I think the best part is the alternate reality, which comes complete with its own history, societal prejudice, and criminal justice system. But at the same time you’d have to squint to really see this world as different from ours. The only outright difference is that everyone wears gloves and charms to prevent being worked. Holly Black likens the criminalization of working - the use of magic - to Prohibition, which gave rise to organized crime as we know it today. She delicately explores what it’s like to grow up in a family of people that are criminals just by being born the way they are, and what its like to be absorbed into a dark world without even realizing how deep you are.

There’s an undeniable theme of manipulation and coercion in this book. Everybody’s working somebody. To give them good luck, to take away their memories, to make them fall in love. Even when Cassel can’t work magic, he works as a bookie for his classmates, taking their money based on his own fixed odds, getting close enough to be accepted but never embraced. No one is really who they truly are, whether it’s because they are being purposely deceitful, or because they’ve had some part of them taken away. Cassel discovers that a very big part of him has been taken by people he was supposed to trust. It was disturbing to me on a very subconscious level, because it’s never really said outright how horribly Cassel has been violated. He feels it though, and I felt it.

White Cat satisfies every craving between action and suspense, emotion and sophistication. It’s got gangsters, assassination plots, mystery and even a semi-demented love story that’s worthy of its characters. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
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Reading Progress

05/14 marked as: currently-reading
05/16 page 74
23.0% "I like this. It's clever and quiet and just the right amount of creepy."
05/17 page 181
56.0% "I'm not sure if this is a simple story disguised within a complex plot, or vice versa. Either way, its enjoyable, even if its fairly obvious where it's headed."
05/20 page 222
69.0% "There is a theme going on here of metaphorical sexual violence that I think is affecting me on a subconscious level. I feel like Cassel right now - like someone else is poking around in my head. I'm having a lot of weird dreams."
05/21 page 282
88.0% "Just realized I've been picturing Cassel as looking kinda like Djokar Tsarnaev. Awkward."
05/23 marked as: read

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