Shape-shifting teenage girls work together to save the world in this contemporary fantasy.
Mexican-American Ana Cetzal is shocked to learn she’s been accepted to fancy Temple Academy in New Mexico. The middle-class Cleveland girl’s narration conveys how out of place she feels surrounded by affluent classmates. Relief comes in the form of two down-to-earth girls, Doli, a Navajo, and Shani, of Egyptian descent. The trio, along with Chinese-American Lin (one of their most prestigious classmates), unwittingly unlocks an ancient power that allows them to transform into wildcats. It’s up to the quartet to stop Egyptian god Anubis from unleashing chaos into the world. Though they are nearly unstoppable together, the dangers they face are frighteningly real, which makes their victories that much more triumphant. The diverse cast is wonderfully refreshing. An action-packed plot, mostly well-drawn characters, and fascinating fantasy elements interwoven with themes like class and culture make this a solid story. There are a few missteps on the multicultural road. Though she becomes likable, Lin initially is characterized as a disappointingly stereotypical Asian “dragon lady,” and, oddly, Asian food is presented throughout as exotic. The fashion-designer name-dropping grows old as well.
Here’s hoping the second volume evens out the rough patches, as readers will undoubtedly be hungry for more of Ana and her friends’ adventures. (Fantasy. 10-14)