Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thumbs up for Cynthia Leitich Smith's FERAL CURSE

The protagonist of Cynthia Leitich Smith's Feral Curse is named Kayla. Her parents are white. She is black. She was adopted. From Ethiopia.


There's more. Lots more. And though it might seem like a lot for any story to take on, Smith pulls it off.

Kayla is a senior in high school. She is dating a guy named Ben. He's white, and deeply religious.

A bit more about Kayla. She's a werecat. A shapeshifter. For those who might be weirded out by that, Smith bats it down, making space for the existence of shapeshifters, with this:
Shifters aren't magical or demonic. Many of the Lord's creatures can transform. Frogs can change their gender. Snakes can change their skins. So what if we can change on the cellular level? Creation is ever the more glorious for its variety. Ever more miraculous.
Isn't that cool? People in the world Kayla lives in know about shapeshifters. She's going to meet other shapeshifters in this story. That's cool, too. Some people don't like them. Others don't know what to do about them. And others don't care. But that's changing, and not in a good way for the shapeshifters.

Early on in the story, Kayla decides to reveal her shifter self to Ben. He is glad for her having trusted him enough to do that but he's also unsettled by it and tells her that he will help her find a cure for her condition. They argue. He takes off. The things he does next unleash the story. That carousel you see on the cover? Woah! I'll leave you to read it yourself to get why I said 'woah.'

Among Kayla's friends is a girl named Jess Bigheart. Jess is Osage. The two girls were best friends for awhile. Kayla went to powwows with Jess and her family, had sleepovers, all that good stuff. That was before Kayla knew she was a shapeshifter. She was thirteen when she first experienced a shift in her body. It scared her and she withdrew from friendships, becoming somewhat of a loner. Jess, though, remains a steadfast friend. That's going to matter. A lot.

Reviews note that the end of the book is a cliffhanger. It is. And it makes me want to read the next one right away, but I'll have to wait. I will say this about that ending. I like anything--well-written, of course--that takes me to Indian Country, because it reflects a segment of society that isn't often seen out there in the land of children's and young adult books.  

Published in 2014 by Candlewick Press, Feral Curse is the second book in Smith's "Feral" series. Here's the cover of the first one. I wonder what the third will be?! Can't wait!

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