November 21, 2017

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Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter | SLJ Review

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redstarPorter, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. 304p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765380548. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Vassa Lisa Lowenstein’s mother is dead, and her father is gone. She has a stepmother and two stepsisters. It’s an odd living arrangement but no more peculiar than a lot of things in her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. The nights have been especially strange, growing longer and longer. When her stepsister sends Vassa out in the middle of the night for lightbulbs, the only store that’s still open is the local BY’s. Everyone knows about BY’s, and its owner Babs Yagg, but people do tend to remember a store that dances around on chicken legs and has a habit of decapitating shoplifters. When things don’t go as planned in BY’s, it will take all of Vassa’s wits and her enchanted wooden doll Erg’s cunning to escape the store alive and maybe even break whatever curse has been placed on Brooklyn’s nights. This stand-alone urban fantasy is inspired by the Russian fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful.” Although Vassa is described as incredibly pale, the rest of the book is populated with characters who are realistically diverse for its urban location. Evocative settings and imagery help bring this bizarre corner of Brooklyn to life. Vassa is a cynical, no-nonsense character who is quick to make jokes and take risks with the delightfully sharp-tongued Erg at her side. A deliberate lack of romantic tension makes this a refreshing read, and elements of traditional horror blend well with high-concept fantasy in this surprising and engaging tale. VERDICT A must-have for YA urban fantasy collections.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.

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