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White Cat - Holly Black I had a blast reading about Cassel. Cassel comes from a family of curse workers. In this version of America to be a curseworker [capable of manipulating people by touch] also makes you a criminal. Cassel's family would be criminals in the real world as well though. His mother sounds like a real piece of work. She had him stealing for her and would manipulate his emotions to make him manageable.
It's sad just how many kids parents have them do that in the real world. I work in our county jail. It breaks my heart when family Christmases for some are breaking into houses.

In "White Cat" his mom is in prison for a con job she pulled on a millionaire. She uses her gift of affecting people's emotions with her con artist scams.
I am a sucker for con artist films so I enjoyed the little tidbits about conning such as knowing the mark, the convincer and my favourite "You can't con an honest man." I love con artists movies.

Grifters often excuse their crimes with that line and these guys are no exception.
Curse workers suffer what is called blowback. Blowback means they suffer what they did to another person [if they did something good however that goes back on them as well].
Cassel's mom is very emotionally unstable as a result of "handling" her marks and her family. Cassel is the mark as well where his family is concerned.

He's suspended from school during a sleep-walking incident. He has to go stay with the family who don't respect or trust him do to something that happened three years ago. He killed his best friend who happens to be the daughter of the crime family his family work for.
His brothers are very nasty as well. I liked his grandfather a lot.
The family dynamic in this book was very realistic and the build-up and explanations on how the family worked were well plotted out.
It's just as much character driven story as it is about magic.
I can't help but be reminded of what is happening in South America right now with the drug crime families.
There is a small side story in this book where some of the government want testing of "workers" so they can know who has abilities and who doesn't. So they can criminalise children for not doing anything obviously. The alternate Australia does not have powerful crime families due to workers being legal.

This is probably is a bigger part of the next two books.

Cassel has a lot of baggage but he is resourceful, loyal and funny.