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The Scratch Daughters, by H. A. Clarke

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a sequel to The Scapegracers, and it is very very sequel–I strongly recommend that you read the first volume first, because a lot of the plot and character arc are directly dependent on its events.

One of the things I loved about the first book that was kept here–and even to some extent expanded—was how clearly Clarke respects teenage girls and their friendships for who and what they are–not trying to make them into adults in order to give them respect but looking at this particular stage of human life with love. In this book there are nonbinary teens in this category as well, and Clarke is scrupulous never to deadname a character who changes their name in the middle of the book, which is just lovely.

The friendships themselves are not entirely smooth sailing, as you might expect for any high school novel to begin with, but certainly for one about a coven, particularly a coven whose pet book demon is in rather unusual living quarters at the moment. The titular daughters of Scratch–who were also the titular Scapegracers of the last book–are making their presence felt around town, putting spells on violent people (especially boys and men) to make sure they can’t hurt people (especially teenage girls). And that kind of behavior is never without pushback.

One of the things that I found particularly interesting and well-done in this book is that sexuality can be a motivation without the motivation being “and then I want to have sex with this person.” Coming out stories are important, and stories where people’s sexuality just is are important, but this is neither of those things, this is a story where sexuality as distinct from sex is a plot motivator, and I don’t see that
nearly as often as I’d like.

The kids make the kind of trash decisions that teenagers are prone to, and the adults around them make the kind of trash decisions that adult are prone to—but in neither case is it universal. There are always people in both groups who shine as examples of how to human in tough circumstances, some of them in tweed blazers and some in shimmery lip gloss. And some trying out both.

How I feel about the ending depends on whether this is the last book or whether there will be another. As it stands, the ending felt a bit abrupt to me, and a bit too easily tied up in a bow. If it’s just the end of this volume, okay fine; if this is all we get in this series, ehhhh I wish there was a bit more denouement.

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