P.A.W.S. by Debbie Manber Kupfer
When Miri's grandmother dies, she takes with her the family secret. Miri finds herself alone and abandoned in a St. Louis boarding school. But she is about to discover the secret isn't dead. Taunted by bullies, Miri is shocked to learn she possesses a secret power. It can save her... but can it save those she loves? After she is befriended by others with the same strange, magical powers, her history comes alive. And with it, Miri's fate becomes more dangerous. Join Miri on a mysterious and supernatural journey with her new friends, members of an underground St. Louis society known as the Partnership for Animagi, Werewolves, and Shapeshifters, better known as P.A.W.S.
P.A.W.S. has all the whimsical, fantastical, and heartwarming qualities of the Harry Potter series. The main character is a young girl who finds out about the world of Animagi, Werewolves, and Shapeshifters, aka people who can transform into animals. The magic/fantasy elements are reminiscent of the Harry Potter books, not because P.A.W.S. is about a school for wizards and witches, but because it's about a close-knit community of people with magical qualities. I've been longing for a Harry Potter-esque story for awhile now, and I found that P.A.W.S. satisfied my need for this kind of story.
P.A.W.S. has many of my favorite elements of Young Adult novels. First of all, it has lots of histroy. While it's not strictly historical fiction, parts of the book do take place in the past (the World War II era to be exact), and the main character's family history plays a large role in the story, so she finds herself delving into historical topics and themes. Also, since Miri's family is Jewish, this story has rich Jewish culture. As someone who is very much unfamiliar with Jewish culture, I found it interesting, not to mention unusual, to be able to read about it in this Young Adult novel. Another thing I love about this book is the emphasis on family, specifically Miri's relationships with her grandmother and mother. I love stories that center around family, so I was delighted to find such strong familial themes in this book.
Rather than having only one narrator, P.A.W.S. is told from the points-of-view of multiple characters. This format reminds me a bit of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series, so if you're familiar with those books, you'll know the kind of point-of-view shifts I'm talking about. The reader gets to experience the story through the eyes of a variety of characters, ranging from children to adults to the innocent to the villains. I really liked getting to read about so many different characters. It made the book far more interesting than it would have been if it had just been told through Miri's point-of-view, although Miri does get the most "screen-time" in comparison to the other characters. I appreciated the sheer variety in the characters. It's not often that a book tells the same story from so many wildly different perspectives, and Debbie Manber Kupfer writes multiple points-of-view really well.
I'd describe the writing style in P.A.W.S. as simplistic and even a bit young. Based on the writing style and language used, I would classify this book as being right on the border of Middle Grade and Young Adult. I don't mean this as a bad thing! In fact, I consider this to be a positive thing. The writing is simple and easy to read, making this a fun, fast book that can be devoured in one sitting. While the writing is simple and I think could be appreciated by a younger audience, the actual story is another matter entirely. The subject matter is heavier than I expected it to be. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but this book has some violence, kidnapping, abusive relationships, etc. involving werewolves and other "monsters." (Of course, Harry Potter is a Middle Grade book with heavy topics, so I guess P.A.W.S. can be read by a younger audience as well.) I personally found some parts of this book surprisingly gruesome, so just be aware of that if you're thinking of sharing this book with a younger reader.
The world-building and magical elements in P.A.W.S. are fantastic. Like I said, I think this book gives off some Harry Potter vibes. I'm not saying this book is the next Harry Potter or anything, but the fantasy and magic in P.A.W.S. are done really well, and I think this book will appeal to people looking for a fantasy story to fill the Harry Potter-sized void in their life.
P.A.W.S. is a fun, action-packed story with elements of fantasy and magic that are reminiscent of the Harry Potter series. It features several of my favorite things to find in Young Adult books, so I was delighted to discover this book. I recommend P.A.W.S. to anyone looking for a fun and fast fantasy read.