Review Copy: The Cat’s Maw

Mystical dreams, broken legs, and cats: this new MG novel is worth a look. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond

Note: I received a digital copy of The Cat’s Maw from the author for review consideration.

I received a copy of The Cat’s Maw several weeks ago, and by the time I got a chance to read it, I had totally forgotten what it was about.  So here’s the summary, sent to me by the publicist:

In the sleepy town of Appleton, a young loner follows a stray cat onto the road and is struck by a car. A leg is shattered, a summer is ruined, and the troubled life of Billy Brahm goes from bad…to cursed.
When the mysterious cat appears at his bedside, Billy is haunted by strange and prophetic dreams — the creatures in them speak of Watchers, and Shadows, and the Enemy that Awakens.  
Does this impossible realm hold the key to healing the broken boy? Is the golden-eyed cat there to help him…or to make the nightmares come true?
Too frightened to share the truth with his strict adoptive parents, Billy realizes that the only ones he can turn to are the local vet’s daughter, the town’s ‘crazy cat lady’…
And a mystical tiger, calling from his dreams.

So basically, this story is about a boy named Billy who is constantly getting into scrapes–his latest one is a run-in (literally) with a car that leaves him with a broken leg in a plaster cast.  While Billy mopes around, unable to do much of anything, a cat appears by his bedside and, much to Billy’s parents’ chagrin, seems to adopt Billy as his own.  Billy also starts to have dreams–scary, weird dreams involving a Gray Man and a tiger in a grotto.  He has no idea what these dreams mean (and neither do we… but I’ll get to that in a second), but he starts investigating, with the help of the local vet’s daughter.

I loved Billy in this book.  He’s accident-prone and basically friendless, and his parents (especially his mother) are incredibly strict, but he still manages to explore, get into trouble, and meet some new people.  He does research on his dreams, both in books and in real life, despite continued injuries and his belief that he might be under a curse.  His cat lady neighbor is wise and mysterious, and the cats themselves seem to speak to Billy as he tries to uncover the meaning of his dreams.  The local vet and his daughter sympathize with Billy and take him under their wing.  The only characters I really disliked were Tommy, the local rich kid/bully who seems to have a particular beef with Billy, and Billy’s mom, who is controlling and not at all understanding.  Really, the mother was worse to me than Tommy–it’s very obvious that Tommy is supposed to be a “bad guy,” so the things he does are understandably “bad.”  But the mother, who I assume is supposed to be at least slightly sympathetic, is anything but.  She bulldozes her way over anything or anyone who gets in the way of her plans, and she even lies to Billy about something very important to him.  I cringed every time she entered the scene.

Other than that, I found this book really enjoyable.  My only other complaint is that, just as Billy had no idea what his dreams were about, neither did I.  I’m still not sure what happened in the last chapter or so of the book, when Billy started to find some answers.  It was all very mystical, which is great, but I was so, so confused.  This is set to be the first book in a series, so maybe the next book will provide some clearer answers for me, but I felt a little lost with just this book to turn to.  Still, the writing was great, the characters were interesting, and, of course, it’s all about cats!  What more could I ask for in a middle grades novel?

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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