“His family had been looking for the missing descendant of Mary Warren for most of his life.”
Author Rachel Foster has succeeded in writing an engaging, suspenseful and psychologically riveting treasure with her book Cursed. The one word simplicity of the title provides a beautiful dichotomy in itself because Foster’s story is far from simple. Foster’s writing instantly allows an emotional investment for the reader with her characters and plot.
Alice Warren is not your typical high school student. She is often the new girl in town (enduring frequent moves with her mother) and must navigate the angst filled environment of high school. But destiny has written a path for Alice rooted in her family history and threatening to impact her future in profoundly tragic ways.
It is close to Halloween and Alice isn’t enthusiastic about the approaching “holiday.” She is also dealing with the prospect of yet another move. The teen is crushed since she will be graduating high school in a few months. Her mother, Dianna, is cryptic as to why circumstances dictate uprooting the family. Alice’s best friend Sophia Nathanson and Sophia’s boyfriend Jude Davis offer support and understanding. However, the high school’s quintessential popular girl, Sydney Pierce, is a thorn in Alice’s side. Sydney’s ex boyfriend, star football player Jason Evans also becomes a key person in Alice’s life.
Foster does an impeccable job crafting her characters, most notably her central protagonist Alice. Alice can be prone to histrionics yet she is also sensitive. Best friend Sophia’s personality contrasts Alice. Sophia doesn’t seem as concerned about other people’s perceptions of her and is willing to test the waters due to an adventurous streak. Later in the book, Foster surprises the reader with an unexpected twist involving Sophia that is not only heartbreaking but also marvelously effective in moving Alice’s story forward.
Sophia’s boyfriend Jude is a compelling character. When we first meet Jude, it is easy to dismiss him as a mere appendage for Sophia. He’s the car-loving, attentive boyfriend. However, the reader later discovers that Jude and Alice’s destinies are linked. How Foster links their destinies is a testament to her phenomenal skill as a writer.
Jason Evans rises above the stereotype of the attractive, star football player. It would have been easy for Foster to fall into the trap of writing Jason as a one dimensional character. Instead, she is attuned to Jason’s character motivations and crafts him with layers.
Similarly, it is impressive watching Sydney emerge from a mean girl to a character that readers will applaud.
Finally, Alice’s mother, Dianna is another character that Foster thoroughly commands. The reader will see a character who loves her daughter. Yet, there’s an intriguing twist involving Dianna that the reader won’t see coming.
As a history aficionado, I was especially thrilled with Foster’s remarkable ability to weave the history of the Salem Witch Trials within her fictional narrative.
Foster writes in the Young Adult genre. For an older reader who may be inclined to reject this book because of the Young Adult label, this would be a great disservice. This label might suggest the age group for the intended audience. But this book doesn’t alienate older readers. Cursed offers universal themes such as fate, heroism and loyalty. I gave this book my highest recommendation.