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Alyzon Whitestarr    by Isobelle Carmody order for
Alyzon Whitestarr
by Isobelle Carmody
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Isobelle Carmody is well known for her fantasy series including the Obernewtyn Chronicles, the Gateway trilogy, and her Little Fur series for younger readers. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Alyzon Whitestarr (YA urban fantasy), I hope that it launches a new series for her, as I want to read more.

Alyzon's family is warm, caring - and rather chaotic - but they seem to manage well together, despite struggling with finances. Her father Macoll ('Mac') is a musician, a lead guitarist in a band called Losing the Rope, and her mother Zambia an artist with a nocturnal lifestyle and a sad secret. Alyzon has two sisters, Mirandah and moody Serenity (who shares a room with Alyzon), and two brothers, Jesse and baby Luke. They muddle along fine together until the day of Alyzon's accident - after being in a coma for a month, she finds that she has enhanced perceptions of people, expressed through her sense of smell.

Different odors give Alyzon insights into both people's essential natures and their transitory moods - and there are big surprises in some of the individuals in her life. She makes a new best friend in Gilly Rountree at school but works hard to avoid 'the incredibly handsome Harlen Sanderson', who is suddenly stalking her but emits a hideous, nauseating stench that signals danger. As Alyson gradually learns to use her new talent - and to screen it as well - she becomes increasingly worried about a darkness overtaking her sister Serenity, and also about wealthy entrepeneur Aaron Rayc's influence on her father (especially after she learns of other artists whose lives he has destroyed).

Alyzon and Harrison, whom she meets through Gilly, find links between current happenings and the Shaletown Detention Center (from which refugees had been forcibly returned to their countries of origin, something that was a catalyst for the changes in Serenity). Raoul, a wheelchair-bound friend of Gilly's and a computer whiz, helps them in their investigation. They develop a theory that the wrongness Alyzon senses in people is an infection 'responsible for much of man's inhumanity to man or beast' and that Rayc and Sanderson are trying to spread it. The suspense and danger build to a grand finale in which Alyzon infiltrates a benefit concert, hoping to save her own family, and she makes a sacrifice to do so.

As Alyzon Whitestarr ends, she and her newfound friends and fellow warriors acknowledge that they've fought a battle, not a war and that 'It's not over.' I certainly hope that's the case as it makes a wonderful story, one that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the paranormal.

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