Mary, born in Alabama to poor and neglectful parents, thought the biggest change she'd ever experience had happened eight years earlier, when she was adopted by an upper-middle-class couple who moved her to New York and enrolled her in a private school. Not only did Mary get a loving mother and father but she also got a same-age sister. Life is now stable and full of promise--Mary's biggest problems are that her new last name is Richards and that classmate Ling Ling Lebowitz has a mean streak.
Then one day a cat brushes up against Mary, and just like that, her sense of reality is changed forever. What does it mean that there is now a strip of orange cat fur growing in a swirl around her foot?
Helen Ellis's The Turning: What Curiosity Kills is the first book in a new urban paranormal series for young adults. Sixteen-year-old Mary discovers that she is special, but being able to turn into a cat is not quite the special she was hoping for. The good news is that her major crush, Nick, can also turn, and he seems to be more than willing to be her guide. The bad news is that her sister is deathly afraid of cats. The good news is that Mary has to hide her condition for only five years. The bad news is that she has to hide her condition for five years.
According to Nick, the turning lasts two weeks every winter and then again for the entire summer. If they manage to stay alive for five years, they will be released from becoming cats and will be able to lead a normal life. What Curiosity Kills sets up the series: We are introduced to the major players, both feline and human; figure out that there are at least two gangs vying for control of the Upper East Side; and learn a bit about the lore behind the turnings.
Ellis's The Turning series will appeal most to middle-school readers, but cat lovers of any age will enjoy the premise. Adults will appreciate the novel's wry look at life on the Upper East Side. As Ellis told us in her guest post on Monday, Mary and her friends know a Manhattan that visitors to the city rarely see. After reading this book, you might have a new respect for the city's cats.
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Published by Sourcebooks / Fire, 2010
Challenges: New Author, 100+
Source: Review (see review policy)