A teenage girl discovers what happens when the new boy next door is literally a harbinger of doom in this supernatural YA novel.
Angie Dovage, 17, has a secret identity that only her two closest friends know about—but she’s not a superhero: she DJs at a local club as “Sparo,” disguised in a bright purple wig and big, green sunglasses. She also has other things that she’d prefer to keep hidden; for instance, she doesn’t like talking about her childhood with an addict mother living in a Volkswagen van and how she was finally returned to her father’s custody. But her new next-door neighbor and classmate, Reece Fernandez, may have even bigger secrets. Angie saw him with a strange man whose face impossibly transformed, right before her eyes. Reece also appears to have a private, haunting sorrow of some kind, and he’s oddly alarmed by bees. As Angie has more encounters with him, it’s eventually revealed that the face-changing man is a cursed creature called a Beekeeper whose bees’ stings turn people into paranoid killers. As for Reece, he and his fellow crow people are also cursed and attracted to sites of tragic destruction. Despite this, Angie finds herself deeply drawn to him. She can’t stop the cataclysm that will hit her town, but can she save herself, her friends, and Reece? One of the most successful elements of Kassel’s debut novel is its mythmaking. Rather than drawing on tired tropes such as vampire, werewolf, or fairy lore, she creates an original set of cursed beings with hints of a still-wider mythology, including a mysterious figure called the Strawman. The face-changing man with bees crawling out of his mouth is the genuine stuff of nightmares. Reece’s crow people are mysterious, but their actions are also based on real-life corvids’ natural behavior. Kassel’s characterization is also strong; for example, Angie’s music and DJ persona give her a way to work through her issues and show her strengths. Some of the emotions on display can be rather melodramatic, but they’re appropriate enough for teenagers, especially considering the novel’s big events.
A pleasingly original contribution to the paranormal-romance genre.