Hello, dear readers! Some year, I might be coordinated enough to write reviews and schedule them for posting while I’m on vacation, or even line up guest posts. This year was not that year, however. But I’m back, and ready to try to catch up. And I’m posting this a little late to the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
You might have noticed this cover popping up more than once in my lists of books I’ve been waiting to read. (Isn’t it a gorgeous cover?) I’ve been a Sarah Zettel fan for over a decade now, and really loved last year’s Dust Girl. I went right to my closest book store to buy it as soon as I’d saved up enough money… [Insert rant about big box bookstores not carrying book with starred reviews in major literary publications by established local authors here.] So I read the library’s copy, as usual, and will try the inconvenient but locally run bookstore in the next town over.
Golden Girl. American Fairies book 2. by Sarah Zettel.
In the last book, our heroine Callie, half black, half white, half fairy and half human, first learned of her fairy heritage and that she was wanted – not in a good way – by both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts. At the start of this book, Callie and her friend Jack have just arrived in Hollywood, which they have deduced is the home of the Seelie Court, in hopes of rescuing both of Callie’s parents from them. She meets her Uncle Shake, who would have been heir to the Unseelie Throne instead of her father if plans had gone more smoothly before Callie was born. He’s as selfish as he ever was, but can Callie believe him that helping her is now in his best interests? Through Jack’s job for a big studio, they meet Ivy Bright, “the brightest little star in Hollywood,” who is puzzlingly surrounded by magic.
This is the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Golden Girl mixes Fairy and Hollywood magic. It’s not clear that Callie really knew any Black people in her tiny Kansas hometown, but she was surely exposed to a lot of prejudice against Blacks in Dust Girl. Here, by contrast, she gets her first seductive experience of sophisticated Black culture. It includes intriguing glimpses of true larger-than-life characters William Hearst (who also plays a role in Goliath and whose castle near Hollywood I visited during my Up With People year) and Paul Robeson, a blues singer and civil rights activist I’d never heard of before. As Callie is trying to figure out how to outwit the fairies on both sides, he delivers the line that seems to me to be the heart of the book:
“It’s not about who they are,” he told me with that same implacable, unbreakable calm that had kept his anger from my magic. “It is never about who they are. It’s about who you are. ”
Besides the many interesting supporting characters, I was very pleased to see Callie grow as well, gaining skills with people and her magic. There’s plenty going on in the plot, as well, with narrow escapes from appropriately terrifying unnatural beings, as well as difficulties in hiding magic from humans. I know I keep talking about books that have things to think about – but maybe I need to mention, too, that while thoughts are good, I’m looking for a story with meaning, not a Message with a story draped awkwardly around it. This definitely and happily falls into the first category. It’s marketed for teens, and while Callie is a teen, I still haven’t seen anything to make this inappropriate for older middle grade kids – there’s some violence including death, but still less than, say, Percy Jackson, and the romance is still mostly just a hint for the future. Everything comes together in a highly satisfactory way, with enough plot resolution to end the book while leaving room for the final installment of the trilogy. And now, back to waiting. Maybe I should read both of them again while I’m waiting.