** spoiler alert ** Parents need to know that this love story between a mortal and a Caster (or witch) has plenty in common with Twilight. The romance is more dreamy than steamy (just lots of passionate kissing), the town is small with narrow-minded inhabitants, and there are some evil forces at work. Violence is mostly relegated to the final battle where some major characters die. Educational value Not applicable Positive messages Strong message of family loyalty and love; Lena is unavoidably different but wants to fit in and be normal; Ethan is tired of peer pressure and conformity and accepts Lena as she is. His best friends accept their romance. Lena and Ethan rely on their family and family friends and are not dissappointed. However, this southern small town is portrayed as rigid and small- minded. Positive role models Like every teen, Ethan feels alone and "different" -- turns out he is special, but his courage is not altruistic as it centers on his new love. He does take risks for his father and his Amma, however, and shows a strong loyalty to his friends. Many strong older women populate this small town, both for good and evil, but definitely appear as the stronger sex. Violence Supernatural battles with violent storms and danger; a witch possesses a woman; an incubus feeds off human dreams; flashbacks to a Civil War battle where houses full of families were burned; some main characters die in the final battle. Sex Scenes of long, dreamy kissing between Lena and Ethan; a teen boy is literally under the spell of an older, "hot" witch, but readers see nothing but kissing between them. References made to kids hooking up. Language Mild use of "hell" and "ass." Consumerism Not applicable Drinking, drugs, & smoking An older girl posing as a teen smokes; teens drink at a party; adults drink but are not portrayed drunk. This is from commonsensemedia.org Booklist (November 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 5)) Grades 9-12. Ethan has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina, his whole life, as have generations of his family. If there’s one thing he knows, nothing changes. Enter Lena Duchannes, and suddenly nothing is the same. Like most southern gothics, this story hides a secret, one that links Ethan’s and Lena’s families. Otherworldly elements abound: Lena, from a family of spell casters, is waiting for her sixteenth birthday to see if she’ll be claimed by the Light or the Dark. Meanwhile, Lena and Ethan, who can read each other’s thoughts, are traveling back in time to the Civil War, when two star-crossed lovers meet their fates. Throw in secret mystical libraries, a literal witch hunt, dead parents, and the snarky girls and sports teams of high school, and there’s a lot going on here. Maybe too much. The 600-plus pages could have been cut to make a tighter, better story. Despite the bulk, there’s plenty teens will like: romance, magic, hauntings, and the promise of more to come. Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2009) This smart, textured and romantic Southern Gothic takes place in Gatlin, S.C., where cheerleaders and the basketball team run the high school and the Daughters of the American Revolution and Civil War re-enactors run the town. Ethan Lawson Wate, raised by his authoritative and spiritually inclined housekeeper Amma in the months since his mother's death, can't wait to leave Gatlin's predictable monotony. Then Stonewall Jackson High's first new student in years, headstrong, vulnerable and expressive Lena Duchannes, shows up driving her reclusive uncle's hearse, and Ethan recognizes her from his dreams. Compelled to explore his connection to the new girl, Ethan learns that Lena's family are magic Casters and that Lena's supernatural fate will be chosen for her when she turns 16. Community outrage, emotional tension and Lena and Ethan's doomed search for a way around her uncertain destiny build to a boil in the expansive but tightly plotted march toward Lena's 16th birthday. Ethan's wry narrative voice will resonate with readers of John Green as well as the hordes of supernatural-romance fans looking for the next book to sink their teeth into. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up) School Library Journal (December 1, 2009) Gr 7 Up-Ethan Wate, a high school sophomore, plans to escape his small Southern town as soon as he can. Life has been difficult since his mother died; his father, a writer, has withdrawn into his study. Then Lena Duchannes arrives, and this strange new girl is the very one who has been occupying his dreams. She and her kin are Casters, beings who have supernatural powers. Getting to know her exposes Ethan to time travel, mortal danger, and love. The teens can hardly bear to be apart, but Lena's 16th birthday, when she will be Claimed for dark or light, is only 6 months away. To save her, they fight supernatural powers and the prejudice of closed-minded people. Yet, good and evil are not clearly delineated, nor are they necessarily at odds. In the Gothic tradition of Anne Rice, the authors evoke a dark, supernatural world in a seemingly simple town obsessed with Civil War reenactments and deeply loyal to its Confederate past. The intensity of Ethan and Lena's need to be together is palpable, the detailed descriptions create a vivid, authentic world, and the allure of this story is the power of love. The satisfying conclusion is sure to lead directly into a sequel. Give this to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight (Little, Brown, 2005) or HBO's "True Blood" series and they will devour all 600-plus pages of this teen Gothic romance.-Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.