Caitlin: I don’t think it’s any secret that we enjoy Michelle Zink around these parts.
Kate: That is true, indeed. I still remember the joy of reading and falling in love with her Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy.
Caitlin: Me too! I was so excited when Penguin Canada sent me an early copy of This Wicked Game and I didn’t have to wait and I got to gloat and it was awesome.
Kate: You mean gloating to me? Which you did. And which was mean. But whatever. You had to wait for me to review and we’ve both read it and…I think you loved it a lot more than I did. Not that I didn’t like the book. I just had some Issues.
Caitlin: I did have less issues than you some of which I feel are location based?
Kate: That’s true. The fact that I live in Louisiana and spend much more time than I ever wanted in New Orleans does color how I see this book. but weirdly, I thought the location issues were well handled. She thoughtfully touched on Katrina, and I was glad that she highlighted that it was the poor areas of New Orleans that are still struggling and how easy it is for the rest of us to forget that things haven’t healed. And I know everyone has this glorified vision of New Orleans and the french quarter but…New Orleans is gross and smells like garbage juice and regret and no one needs to read about that.
However, I had major issues with the diversity in this book, particularly in the context of NOLA and even more particularly in the context of voodoo. I was….pretty surprised how few of the characters were from a minority background. I was even more surprised by the fact that the characters who were persons of color were…not obviously so. It took me half of the book to realize that Xander was black. And I can only assume Sasha must have been because of a reference to her braids? But this book was just an excellent opportunity for a truly diverse cast and we didn’t see that.
Caitlin: I will have to take your word about New Orleans as I too am under the pop culture influenced idea that New Orleans is beautiful and full of history and magic.
As far as the diversity goes, and I say this as a middle class white person, I didn’t notice until you mentioned it. Only then did it bug me. So, take from that what you will.
Kate: Well, I mean, I too am a middle class white person. But I also live in this state. And I can say that I grew up in Texas and that we had barely any minorities in my high school. But Louisiana is not like that. It’s an incredibly diverse state, probably the most diverse state in the country for the population size (brb wikipedia). Ok, we’re the second. Congratulations, Mississippi, you get to be first in something. But still. 32% of this state’s population is black. I wanted and needed to see more of that. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that voodoo is, historically, not a white person thing.
Caitlin: This all makes sense. Like, if I read a book based here in Vancouver and none of the characters were Asian I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else in the book. So, I can see how that is a problem.
Kate: And that’s a shame, because I really liked Claire a lot. I thought she had believable teenage insecurities. And sure, a couple of times I was frustrated (DO NOT RUN INTO THE ARMS OF THE POTENTIALLY MURDEROUS WITCH, CLAIRE and also WHY ARE YOU KEPING YOUR PERFECT BOYFRIEND SECRET), but I was frustrated because I am, sob, about to be thirty and of course I would know better than that now. I ended up really enjoying the stupid decisions she and her friends were making, and also how much they changed their minds about things.
Caitlin: I think my favourite part of the book was how Claire was such a non-believer, but jumped into the investigation anyway and was fully able to believe that other people believe and that could make them dangerous.
Also, Xander was pretty awesome. Though I don’t think any real teenage boy has the patience he had.
Kate: I really liked Xander. I thought the first scene we saw him in was a bit of a red herring seeing as they are secretly dating and all. But Xander was great. I especially liked that he was the one who wanted their relationship to be out there and in the open. I liked that he was the Big Picture, as Sasha said, love conquers all half of their relationship. Though, I will admit to being confused as to why it had to be a secret.
Caitlin: I too remember being confused about why Claire was so adamant their relationship remain secret. I have a suspicion it was more about Claire being insecure and reluctant to be more involved with the families of the Guild than any feeling that they needed to hide.
Kate: That’s actually a really good point that I hadn’t thought of. Because you’re right, she definitely had a lot of issues with embracing this heritage she was thrust into and all of the trappings that came along with it. So it would make sense that being in a relationship with the heir to the most powerful family in the guild would be strange for her. Though I wish we’d have seen some conflict result from this at the end anyway, because the way this issue was sort of glossed over made all of Claire’s hand-wringing sort of especially silly.
Caitlin: As much as I do not like when parents in YA books refuse to give children information simply because it would ruin the suspense of the book I did like that this rag tag group of teenagers chose to band together to solve the mystery. I liked how it showed that as much as Claire claimed to want to leave the Guild, she was enmeshed with the people of it. They were her family and friends.
I liked how the mystery they were trying to solve forced Claire into finding out more about her family and the Guild and their past. And I really liked how it all came together at the end.
Kate: I did too. The ending was my favorite part. I thought it was well foreshadowed and fast paced and also surprising. I loved Xander’s snarky, smackdown lines and I really liked how much of a team the kids were and how when their parents kind of shut down they were like fuck it, it’s problem-solving time. And I also liked how there was still some mystery left afterward, and that the villain was not tied up in a nice neat bow and delivered unto punishment.
Caitlin: I’ve found this happening more and more, I suppose mostly with books that publishers aren’t sure about, where they work perfectly well as a stand-alone but could be developed into a series. And I really enjoy it. I love that we get closure and feel like it was a complete story, without every, single, thing being tied up in a neat little bow. I wish all first books of series, and second books for that matter, ended this way.
Kate: I agree. There could be more books in this series (maybe even from another character’s point of view?) but it was also clearly a stand alone. I think the book was clearly about Claire accepting her heritage and her “Family” and realizing that New Orleans was her home no matter where she went when she left it, and we definitely came full circle on that issue.
Caitlin: Ultimately, This Wicked Game is a good read about family and tradition and belonging.