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House of Ivy & Sorrow

House of Ivy & Sorrow - Natalie Whipple I wanted to like this book as much as I like its cover. Sadly, I didn't.

The good

I'll give it this: I really appreciate its take on witches.

I can't suffer this kind of Barbie-witches:

but I rather like the idea of witches like these:

Here I found something akin to the second kind, and that I've appreciated very much.

I've appreciated also the offhand way in which the author refers to a lesbian couple, especially in a YA book. As if that's something unarguably normal. It isn't, yet. But it should be.

The bad

Animal sacrifice for trivial purposes.
This is somewhat tied to my beliefs and, as such, someone may find it questionable:
- I'm ok with animal testing if that means finding a cure for leukemia;
- I'm NOT ok with animal testing if some animal has to suffer and die for a new hue of lipstick.
Frog's eyes to spy on people? Bat's ears to overhear conversations? I'm so not ok with that.
Admittedly, the witchcraft here is made also with one's own sacrifice (a pulled nail, a little bloodletting, and so on). That doesn't compensate for all the killing of small animals, usually for futile motives.

The characters don't sound their age.
People of seventeen years old are not so innocent and guileless as described here, and portraying them as such is just wishful thinking at best, and belittling of "real" teenagers at worst.
These girls sound like they are fresh out of a Disney movie (complete with "Love is forever!" catchphrase).
These guys can be that innocent only if they grew up in the Smurf village.

The heroine is a bit of a Mary Sue.
She used to be ugly, but now she's the prettiest of the pretty girls. And getting prettier and prettier. And she is brave, loyal and caring. She probably cries diamond tears and spits nuggets of gold early in the mornings.
The prettiest guy at school has been secretly in love with her forevah.
When an even prettier guy enters the scene, it's obvious that he has to fall in instalove (or almost there).
Do I need to go on?

I think that this is one of those YA books that's fine for teenagers but can't be fully appreciated by more mature readers.