Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: The Turning: What Curiosity Kills by Helen Ellis

Found via: Forever Young Adult

When I was 12 years old, I received my first Animorphs book (#2, The Visitor) in my Easter basket. Did my mom choose it because it was excellently reviewed, popular science fiction with a diverse and engaging cast of characters?


She picked it out because there was a girl turning into a cat on the cover, and I liked cats.

Since the Animorphs books aren't being re-printed until Spring 2011, I think 12-year-old-me would be getting The Turning: What Curiosity Kills for Christmas 2010. And the girls-turning-into-cats thing isn't even the only bit these two books have in common.

The Turning Book 1: What Curiosity KillsHaving been adopted into an elite Manhattan family at a young age, all Mary wants to do is fit in. While her sister Octavia is outspoken and brash, Mary attempts to be normal and unassuming in every way possible - even if that means the boy she's crushing on hardly knows she exists. When she starts feeling tired all the time and having weird cravings, Mary can write that off as a growth spurt. But what about her sudden dislike of running water? And an amazing sense of smell? Oh, and the thick patch of orange hair that sprouted on her leg after a run in with the neighborhood stray?

Mary is far from normal, it turns out. Bit by bit, she's transforming into a cat, at a time when there's a bit of a power struggle happening between different cat factions in New York City - and each side wants Mary to join them, when all Mary wants is to return to her normal life. Enlisting the aid of Octavia, who has some excellent research skills on top of her sauciness, Mary desperately searches for a way to end her turning before there's no turning back.

So aside from turning into a cat, what does this book have in common with Animorphs? The length. This book goes at a ridiculously quick pace, and it's one of the few stories that I wish were a hundred pages longer just so everything can be slightly more fleshed out. There are lots of details that are glossed over - like there are bits where cats will speak to Mary, with their dialog indicated in italics. It's never explained whether these cats are psychic and are putting fully formed phrases in Mary's head, or if maybe Mary is just translating cat behaviors into human speech. The ending is also quite abrupt, which is no problem if the next installment is coming out in a month or two, but leaves us hanging in the worst way when the wait between titles is indefinite (Google revealed nothing about book 2 of The Turning and Helen Ellis' website isn't the easiest to navigate. I'm not a fan of video blogs). This isn't a book with a cliff hanger ending - the climax finishes and then...the end. No denouement, no closure, and no real indication of what could happen next.

Octavia has gotten some blogger love, as she well should. First of all, she's a debate geek, and while I technically didn't do debate, forensics was debate-adjacent, so I love that about her. At first she comes across as a horrible sassy-black-girl stereotype, but Ellis does an excellent job of revealing why Octavia presents herself the way she does. Very interesting.

Also thought it was interesting that both Mary and Octavia are adopted. At first it's totally random and seems like it's just a way to put two non-New-Yorker characters (Mary is originally from Alabama, Octavia from Nebraska) in the big city. So far it hasn't added a lot to Mary, but again it adds some real depth to Octavia's character, as the girl who appears to totally have it all together does in fact have some deep rooted insecurities tied to being adopted.

This is a fun, short read with an interesting twist to the ever-expanding genre of fantasy and paranormal creatures taking over YA. Not a book I'd necessarily run out to get, but certainly fun once you dive in.


Aarti said...

I love that your mom chose a book for you because of the front picture involving a cat :-) And even better that after that, you enjoyed the story, too! I think the way fantasy is blowing up these days is really interesting. I'm still not into the shapeshifter/vampire/werewolf thing myself (I'm still very into the epic fantasy genre), I think it's awesome to stretch boundaries like that.

Michelle said...

I enjoyed this one as well. I'm interested to see the follow up when it comes out!

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails