Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Synopsis: Having lived his entire life in small-town Gatlin, South Carolina, Ethan Wate is ready to escape from his narrow world and the mourning that his grief-stricken father can't seem to escape after the untimely death of his mother.
But Ethan is also haunted by dreams of a girl he's never met -- that is, until the day she moves into town. Lena Duchannes, an outsider and descendant of the town's founding family, makes enemies quickly, even without coming out as the witch, or "caster" that she is. With her life in the balance on her 16th birthday, Lena and Ethan struggle to make sense of the elaborate lies, magic and love in their lives before it's too late.
Review: Let's get right down to it: This is a romance novel. It's also full-on Southern gothic, which I love, and a coming-of-age tale -- literally, on Lena's 16th birthday, her life will completely change. The biggest twist is ostensibly that the girl in this supernatural love story is the superpowered half of the pair, but those who are looking for some serious grrl power won't really find it here.
While Lena's not the type to let anyone run over her (ahem, Bella), saving Lena from a family curse is also the main thrust of the story. While she doesn't exactly wait around for her fate to be decided for her, there are many chapters devoted to some big-time moping in her bedroom, and heavy-duty angsting between the two teens.
And honestly? That's probably the most realistic part of this story. Teenagers who can't handle their changing world, even when it's sometimes a change for the better? I buy it. Lena's ability to change the weather and shatter glass is just gravy.
Sometimes the authors push the Southern angle a bit too hard for my tastes, especially with the quintessential (or cliched, take your pick) hard-as-nails, yet soft-as-warm-butter black housekeeper who has raised generations of the Wate family. But the world-building is top-notch in this series debut, and when I finished, I was sad to say goodbye to good old Gatlin.
Thankfully, the book ends with the classic cliffhanger, guaranteeing fans at least one more installment. And you won't have to hold your breath long to see it on film.
If you liked: "The Outsiders," Anne Rice's "Witching Hour" series or "The Vampire Diaries" you'll enjoy the themes of this book. And there is more than one nod to "To Kill a Mockingbird," as well.
Avoid this if: You think Bella and Edward are the bee's knees. They'll be really angry with you for cheating on them, and you'll never be able to buy into their sophomoric angst again.