Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off Color: Trickster's Girl

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell (ARC) 2011
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books

Rating: 1.5/5

IQ "'I don't make many promises', Kelsa told him. 'Because if I promise, if I start something, I'll finish it. So I'm careful about commitments.'" pg. 63 (quotes subject to change)

It's 2098 and the world has changed drastically. Kelsa is fifteen and her father has just died from cancer. Her mother is distant and Kelsa is removed from her schoolwork and friends. Then she meets Raven. Raven is the handsomest guy Kelsa has ever met but then he tells her that he's the Native American Trickster god. Raven babbles on about an impending ecological disaster involving a tree plague and that Kelsa can help him save the world. Is he crazy? Or could she could really help him save the world?

Let's get this out of the way. Kelsa's using of blackface dropped this book down so much. I just couldn't get behind that. Yes she only used dark foundation but the fact that she thought it was ok to do so in the first place is beyond troubling. So yes massive failure on that part, my mouth literally dropped open, especially when she goes on to bemoan that "[h]er mouth and nose weren't right, but she knew several mixie kids who'd drawn paler skin and Caucasian features out of the genetic lottery. She didn't look like a white girl anymore" (pgs. 191-192). 'Nuff said. In addition, this book moves so s-l-o-w-l-y. I would put this book down and have a hard time getting back into the story. It was normal that Kelsa would be freaked out by a guy who shapeshifts into a raven, but after awhile I just wanted the story to move on. In addition, the uneasy friendship between Kelsa and Raven was odd. They aren't enemies or friends or frenemies. It's almost like the author couldn't decide until the end if she wanted them to be a couple or just friends. The oddest thing was Joby, Kelsa's little brother. He was just a prop. I don't think he said anything at all, he just hung out with their mother and I have no idea why Kelsa wasn't just made an only child.

I did think this book brought up some interesting ideas about the future. For instance, Kelsa is upset that Raven has such a condescending attitude towards humans but at one point she says (I'm paraphrasing) that it's the white man's fault because the Native Americans knew how to take care of the Earth. But Raven says the Native Americans probably would have messed up the Earth too, they just didn't get a chance to stick around long enough on their land with the new technology. I also thought that the new gun laws were intriguing. Guns are illegal and the few guns out there are plastic. The plastic barrel deforms a little bit each time a gun is fired. Hmm, cool. Other things were silly, like the elimination of swear words so everyone says 'frack' and 'carp'. Of course, the environmental message is a good one. Take care of our planet now because who knows what could be happening to it years later? A deadly tree plague with possibly cancerous effects. Or y'know, something equally tragic.

Trickster's Girl suffers from an unfortunate incident with Kelsa trying to disguise herself with blackface and a very slow start. In addition frenemies Kelsa and Raven are difficult to understand, I never felt as though I knew anything personal about Kelsa and Raven. Kelsa is devastated by the loss of her father and Raven doesn't have human feelings, but I needed more to go on than that (I didn't need them to have a romance but I couldn't figure out where they stood with each other). Plus the writing is redundant and over explanatory. The environmental message is the first one I've come across in a book (although I do know of others) and it's a positive resounding theme. The author has some fascinating ideas concerning the end of the 21st century and the inclusion of magic is a nice twist but this book has too many flaws (in my opinion) to make the book an enjoyable experience.

Disclosure: Received as part of Traveling to Teens blog tour. Thank you Houghton!

Off-color reviews are books by poc but not about poc OR books with an important secondary poc character. This book fits the latter.


  1. Mixie? That sounds derogatory to me. I think all that need to be stated was that the character was wearing dark make up and let the reader come to their own conclusion. The way it's described is a bit disconcerting.

    In 2098, will people still be dying of cancer? I mean there so much that could be done with this setting.

    This is an honest review, thank you.

  2. Wow. This one's on my TBR list, but hasn't come in at the library yet. I think I'm going to hold off on reading it for a bit, since there are so many things I'm dying to get my hands on. I was intrigued because of the Raven element, but it doesn't sound like that'll be enough to overcome some problems.

  3. Oh dear! Blackface, really? That alone is enough to deter me! No thanks...don't want that image in my head.


  4. You know, I read right over the blackface comments. I enjoy reading your reviews because you do catch that stuff.


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