This is a good example of a book that works in present tense. I still don't like present tense books, but hey, I'm not unreasonable. The tone here is so casual it feels more like listening to someone recount a story.
Seventeen-year-old Cassel Sharpe is a non-worker in a family of talented curse-workers. His grandfather can kill with a touch; his mother can manipulate people's emotions; his two older brothers can bring luck and break bones with just a touch of their hands. Cassel can't do any of that, but he's always been good at sleight-of-hand. Things aren't so good with his family right now, though. His father is dead and his mother in jail, and Cassel himself tries hard to appear normal at his expensive private school. He doesn't have a lot of friends--okay, no friends--but he runs a successful book-making business from his dorm room. He's haunted by the memory of murdering his childhood best friend, though--he has no idea why he did it or what happened. When he starts sleepwalking again, something he hasn't done in years, it sets off a series of events that will force Cassel to reevaluate his family and everything he's been taught.
The premise of this book is awesome, and the book follows through. Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, something fresh came along to throw me. The idea of curse-workers is fascinating. I loved the worldbuilding: people wear gloves almost all the time to guard against curses, and wear stone amulets to ward off any curses that get through; people who curse are subject to what's called blow-back, where they take a share of the curse on themselves.
I liked Cassel too. He's a complex character, raised as a thief and con artist but working hard to be a normal kid and a good student. He craves the approval of his older brothers even when he doesn't trust them. And he worries about the people he has to con during the book.
I wasn't quite as thrilled with the ending, which is an obvious set-up for the sequel. But I'm going to read the sequel, so I guess it worked.