"There's a little scroll inside the box. It's old and yellow. I'm worried if I open it, it'll turn to dust. Very carefully, I tug it straight...Under the scroll, there's a green velvet bag. I take it out. It's heavy with something that feels like a little book inside. I hold it in the palm of my hand, run my fingers along the side. The book shifts, slides, becomes...cards." - From the book
When Mrs. Rosemont dies, she inexplicably bequeaths two things to her neighbor, thirteen-year-old Anna: her psycho cat, Mouli, and a mysterious deck of tarot cards. Anna consults her newly inherited tarot deck, hoping the cards will predict that she will end up with Freak-turned-Uber-Cool hottie, Declan Kelso. She and her two best friends, Eve and Sydney, follow the advice of the booklet that was also in the velvet pouch, laying out ten of the cards in a spread.
They attempt to interpret the cards based on the booklet, with Eve's certainty leading the way. The High Priestess must be you, says Eve, and the Page of Wands--Declan Kelso! With Lovers as the final card, the trio assumes that Eve will soon be Declan's girlfriend. Anna begins to change her "look", trying to help the cards' message to happen. But, have they interpreted the cards correctly?
Geared towards tweens and teens, In the Cards: Love explores the topic of free will versus destiny, as well as other issues such as divorce, death, single-parent families, cliques, bullying and peer pressure. Although these may be "heavy" topics for young teens, Ms. Fredericks deftly weaves these dilemmas into a faced-paced plot with believable characters and dialogue.
This book stays true to common Rider-Waite imagery and interpretation; in fact, the beginning of the book shows all ten cards laid out in a Celtic Cross spread (though the name of the spread isn't mentioned). The author doesn't dumb down tarot (reversed cards show up in the spread that the girls lay out), but neither does she complicate the cards.
The titles of Chapters Four through Fourteen correspond to a card from the spread (in order), and the events and conversations in that chapter reflect the card meaning. Neat additions to the book are actual card images at the beginning of each chapter, which look like stylized versions of Rider-Waite-Smith imagery.
From The Tower to the Queen of Wands, 3 of Swords to 6 of Cups "upside down", In the Cards: Love takes juvenile fiction to a new level, melding an esoteric art with modern challenges facing many kids today. Having read hundreds of juvenile novels in my life, I'm impressed with Ms. Fredericks' talent for creating an engaging plot with realistic characters (rather than caricatures) and striking a tone doesn't patronize the reader. I actually CARED about the characters, especially "Crazy" Nelson Kobliner.
I was surprised that this 270-page book kept me up all night--I literally couldn't put it down, staying up until morning to read it all! My only concern about In the Cards: Love is some of the language. Although it's written for 11-14 year olds, some of the language is, for me, questionable for this age group.
For example, the girls use the term slutty/slut several times (as well as choosing clothes "for seducing"), often calling other girls "cows" behind their back. Anna ponders what a "big fat dip" her Mom is (the book is written in first person POV, so we "hear" her thoughts), and several characters use the word "pissed" a few times. Also, Eve often shoplifts, considering it a "redistribution of wealth".
Two lines after we discover Eve's penchant for ripping off stores (and find Anna amused by her antics), Anna muses that she envies the way Eve looks (she's an in-your-face-life-sucks "Goth girl")--also implying that she approves of everything about her friend.
Granted, I don't have a teenage daughter (I have an 8 year old son), but it seems to me that parents may want to know if a book geared to their kids' age group promotes calling girls "cows", shoplifting, and seducing the opposite sex. Teen rebellion is one thing (I have the T-shirt), but indirectly praising petty crime is quite another.
Now, if you're a fundamentalist Christian, all bets are off because the premise of this book (and the entire series) is Tarot--so don't even bother with In the Cards: Love if you're of that ilk. But if you're open to esoteric arts like the Tarot (heck, even if you want to learn more about topic!) and don't mind the possible sticking points I mentioned, then this book would be a great addition to your library.
Personally, I look forward to the next installment. Readers are given a sneak peak into Book 2, In the Cards: Fame, which begins right where the girls left off at the end of Book 1: cards before them, pondering who will do the next reading.
(Note: Book 2 will be told from Eve's point of view and, judging from the sneak peak, Eve's sarcasm and cynicism has ratcheted up--for example, she calls her older brother "borderline retarded" and thinks everything about Christmas is "fake".)
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)