Vassa in the Night

Sarah Porter. Tor Teen, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8054-8
Porter (the Lost Voices trilogy) delivers a suspenseful reinvention of the Russian fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” set in a darkly magical version of present-day Brooklyn. “Traps don’t get more obvious than this,” reflects protagonist Vassa at one point. “And they don’t get more irresistible.” The wryness and impulsivity in Vassa’s comment are emblematic of her personality, and it’s that very mix of qualities that drives her to make a fateful stop at the infamous local bodega, BY’s, which sways on chicken legs and advertises its right to behead shoplifters (the head of one of Vassa’s classmates hangs outside, as proof). Accusing Vassa of stealing, the proprietress, Babs, forces her to work in indentured servitude for three nights, during which time Vassa discovers that Babs’s magic may be connected to the growing imbalance between day and night affecting the city. With help from her talking wooden doll, Erg, Vassa endeavors to bring down the witch. It may take a little effort for some readers to ground themselves in the near-hallucinatory strangeness of Porter’s setting, but those who do will be rewarded with a feverishly imagined and deliciously surreal adventure. Ages 13–up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2016
Release date: 09/20/2016
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-0-7653-8622-9
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