In debut author Goldstein's genre-bending cross between urban fantasy and dystopia, genies secretly live among the human population, but they must keep their true nature secret or be punished by the despotic Afrit. Sixteen-year-old Azra hates her destiny as a jinn, forced to grant wishes and obey the Afrit's rules. Moreover, she is haunted by the death of her human best friend in a childhood accident—a crucial piece of backstory that lacks depth and power. As Azra and her jinn sisterhood come into their powers and begin granting wishes, Azra finds herself enmeshed in the lives of two boys: her deceased friend's brother, Henry, and Nate, an intimidatingly attractive, secretly sweet lifeguard. When Henry finds out about Azra's identity, life gets even more complicated. Azra's resentment of her situation is vivid and realistic, but it can border on whiny, and secondary characters are largely underdeveloped. Unfortunately, the plot tends toward the cliché, as Azra discovers that she has more power than most jinn and that there are secrets in her heritage. Ages 12–up. Agent: Lucy Carson, Friedrich Agency. (Apr.)
Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.
To the humans she lives among, she's just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she's learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny. Mentored by her mother and her Zar "sisters,"
Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all.
Through Azra's first-person, present-tense narration, the act of "becoming Jinn" provides a rich metaphor for the potency and frustration of adolescence.” Kirkus Reviews
“Azra is not your typical teenager, despite going to high school, having a crush on the lifeguard, and avoiding the resident mean girl. When she turns sixteen, she will receive her bangle bracelet that will allow her to grant wishes to humans. Azra is a genie (in training). ... The genie theme is original and appealing. Azra is likable; her struggles-even factoring in the genie issue-are real and relatable. With an interesting cover, this will not stay on the shelf.” VOYA, starred review
“[Azra's] struggles with family and impending adulthood ring true and will likely cultivate a loyal, sequel-hungry audience.” Booklist
Read an Excerpt
By Lori Goldstein
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2015 Lori Goldstein
All rights reserved.
A chisel, a hammer, a wrench. A sander, a drill, a power saw. A laser, a heat gun, a flaming torch. Nothing cuts through the bangle. Nothing I conjure even makes a scratch.
I had to try, just to be sure. But the silver bangle encircling my wrist can't be removed. It was smart of my mother to secure it in the middle of the night while I was asleep, unable to protest.
Though my Jinn ancestry means magic has always been inside me, the rules don't allow me to begin drawing upon it until the day I turn sixteen. The day I receive my silver bangle. The day I officially become a genie.
I slam my newly acquired accessory against my bedroom closet, leaving a rounded indent on the wood door. The pristine, gleaming metal mocks me. For the rest of my life, I'll go where I'm told, perform on command, and do it all without question.
Barefooted, I can't kick the pile of tools without impaling myself. I settle for shoving the saw, but in the blade, a flash of gold reflects back at me. I've ignored the unusual sensation of hairs tickling my bare shoulders all morning ... the new tap, tap, tap of my nails against the conjured metal ... the hem of my pajama pants now flirting with my calf. Ignored just in case. Just in case this bangle wasn't here to stay. But even my talent for denial is no match for my curiosity when it's been piqued.
Standing at the bathroom mirror, my breath catches in my throat.
The deepening of my olive skin, the angling of my cheekbones, the lengthening of my torso. I've seen them all before. On my mother, who wears them like she owns them. Unlike me, who wears them like a rented Halloween costume.
I lay a finger on the bangle and push, watching it spin around my wrist. Somehow this thing stimulates my body to reach full maturity. As an inherently attractive species, this tends to make us Jinn ... well, hot. I'm pretty sure it's less a quid pro quo thing (thankfully, otherwise we Jinn would be the most shallow of species) and more an ancestral one, but then again, I'm not privy to the inner workings of the Afrit, the council that rules over our Jinn world.
I run my tongue along my bright white teeth and give thanks that my birthday falls during the summer. Not that I think the HITs (humans in training, aka teenagers) I go to school with would likely question this new and improved Azra Nadira staring back at me. Guess there are benefits to not being popular. Unlike other newbie Jinn, I certainly won't need to change schools or even incite hushed rumors about plastic surgery. For me, one or two fibs about a to-die-for stylist and an oh-so- talented makeup artist will do. Laughably out of character, of course, but, again, there are benefits to not being popular.
Inspecting all the ways my body has been altered while my mind was unable to resist, I note a distinct lack of curves remains. Seriously, a little va-va-voom here or there (and by "there" I'm talking to you, status quo B cup) was too much to ask?
I upend the basket next to the sink. A pair of nail clippers clanks against the marble counter, landing in between dental floss and a barely used compact of blush. I drum my nails, now as luminous as ten perfectly polished pearls, against the cold stone and brandish the nail clippers like a sword.
I knew this was coming. Click. I grew up knowing this was coming. Click. But still a part of me believed something would stop it. Click. Maybe my mother would finally realize I was serious. Click. I've been begging her to find a way around me having to become a genie since I was old enough to understand what the word "destiny" meant. Click. Maybe the Afrit would decide my well-honed lack of enthusiasm was an insult to the long line of Jinn from which I descend. Click. Maybe they'd take one look at me and realize that, for the first time in Jinn history, powers should skip a generation. Click.
I turn on the faucet and watch with satisfaction as the tips of the long nails that replaced my short ones overnight swirl around the basin and disappear down the drain.
A lock of my newly long hair falls across my eye. With a puff, I blow it aside and drop the clippers on the counter. Peeking out from under the overturned basket is the pointy end of a pair of scissors.
Running away was never an option. Snip. I found that out when I was ten, twelve, and fourteen. Snip. My Jinn blood is the equivalent of a permanent tracking device. Snip. And now it's not just my mother who can find me anywhere, anytime. Snip. The Afrit will be watching. Snip. If I refuse to grant wishes, if I screw up, if I expose our Jinn world to humans, I will be extracted from this human life I'm pretending to live. Snip.I'll be tossed in a cell deep inside the Afrit's underground lair where they sit, rubbing their hands together and cackling as they toy with us Jinn pawns. Snip. It's not a death penalty. Snip. As much as it may feel like it is. Snip.
A blanket of dark espresso hair surrounds my feet. I've sheared off the three inches that are new since yesterday and then some. The color, which morphed from mouse to mink while I slept, is an exact match for my mother's. That can stay. The sheen helps the choppy bob I've given myself look halfway decent.
They can make me grant wishes, but they can't dictate what I'm going to look like while doing it.
I splash water on my face and feel the length of my eyelashes. The gold flecks of my eyes have consumed the hazel. The new color is an exact match not only for the color of my mother's eyes but for the color of all Jinn's eyes. And I can't have that.
Lucky for me, my learning curve with this conjuring thing has been fast. One crooked wrench, one inoperable lighter, and one unrecognizable reciprocating saw preceded the plethora of tools turning my bedroom into a hardware store. And in all fairness, the mangled saw stems less from my lack of skill and more from my ignorance as to what a reciprocating saw actually looks like.
Just as I did when conjuring each tool, I steady my breathing, tune my ears to the beat of my heart, which pumps my Jinn blood at a rate closer to that of hummingbirds than humans, and close my eyes. In my mind, I form the perfect image of a pair of transparent contacts tinted dark brown.
An icy tingle snakes through my body. I shiver. My body craves heat. In all the ways I take after my mother—in all the ways I take after all Jinn—an intolerance for cold is the one that bothers me the least.
I concentrate until a bead of sweat forms on my upper lip and the slimy lenses float in a sea of saline in the palm of my hand.
Good-bye gold. Good-bye Jinn.
I plant my face an inch away from the mirror. With my index finger on my top lid and my thumb on my bottom, I create a larger bull's-eye for the brown contact. My first attempt sends the lens down the drain. After conjuring another one, I force myself not to blink. I'm successfully affixing the lens to my eyeball when I notice my fingernails are once again long. And red.
My hair shoots past my chin, flies down my neck, and leaves my collarbone in the dust. Post-bangle, pre-haircut, it barely skimmed my shoulders. It now lands mid-B—Wait, is that now an A?—cup boob. The gold of my eyes deepens and shimmers until my irises resemble balls of compacted glitter.
Apparently the Afrit can dictate what I look like. I dump the contact lenses in the trash and poke my finger in and out of the intricate carvings etched into the bangle. I wouldn't be surprised if one of these indents housed a tiny spy camera and the Afrit were really just a bunch of pervy Peeping Toms.
I dive into my bed and burrow under the soft down of my comforter, grateful for its instant warmth. Ignoring the sound of the dog barking outside, I drink in the sweet smell of the lilacs in perpetual bloom in our backyard and catch a faint hint of sea beneath the floral perfume. Our house is close enough that, when the wind blows a certain way, we can smell the ocean. It doesn't happen often, mostly because the windows are usually shut to seal in the warmth and the curtains are usually drawn to seal in, well, us.
I will myself to fall back to sleep. Even if I can't sleep, I can still choose to skip today.
All I have to do is stay in bed. All I have to do is not open my eyes. All I have to do is pretend. Fortunately, being skilled in pretending is another way in which I take after my mother, another way in which I take after all Jinn.
Turning toward the window, I breathe in the lilacs. Along with the fragrance comes the pollen. Along with the pollen comes the coughing. Along with the coughing comes the involuntary opening of my eyes.
Who am I kidding? I can't skip today. I don't have that kind of control. The bangle assures that I never will.
I crawl out of bed and shed my pajamas, dropping them on top of the drill. Of course the black tank top I pull over my head and down my newly elongated torso is too short. As I move, the hem plays a game of peekaboo with my belly button, an unintentional homage to the midriff- baring genies of fairy tales and fantasies.
I rummage through the top drawer of my bathroom vanity until I find an elastic and the pair of bug-eyed sunglasses my mother bought for me last year. I gather my hair into a ponytail and hide my gold eyes behind the tinted shades. It's summer. Well, almost summer. In New England, summer doesn't debut until July. And only if we're lucky. June is always a tease. Still, with tenth grade in the rearview mirror, I can camouflage my new look this way until school starts again. By then, no one will remember what I used to look like.
As if that's a valid concern. I could walk into calculus tomorrow with rainbow-colored dreadlocks and half the class wouldn't even blink an eye.
Being invisible is a trait I've learned all on my own.CHAPTER 2
The smell of chocolate fills my nostrils as I head down the stairs. The bracelet slides easily around my wrist but is in no danger of falling off. It doesn't have to be tight like a handcuff to achieve the same effect.
I linger in the kitchen doorway. My mother gathers her long hair with one hand and secures it into a bun with the other. The silk of her emerald kaftan glides across her body, accentuating her graceful movements and making them appear all the more effortless. She leans over our farmhouse table and pushes back her sleeves.
I wrap my hand around my silver bangle. It is identical to the one around my mother's wrist except for the color. Hers, like that of all retired Jinn, shines a deep gold. The same color as her—now, our—eyes.
"Happy birthday, kiddo." As she takes in my appearance, she shakes her head. "Nice touch with the sunglasses. Very movie star incognito. But the way you're strangling those pretty new locks is criminal."
I lower the shades so she can see my eyes rolling. Flipping the end of my ponytail, I say, "How else am I supposed to explain the sudden change in length? I'm not the type of girl to get hair extensions. I don't want people to think I'm the type of girl who would get hair extensions."
"Because they'll think you're vain? Or be jealous?" My mother laughs. "Believe me, they've been jealous all along. Yesterday, even I would have sworn you couldn't look any more beautiful." She smiles. "But I'd have been wrong."
Despite or maybe because of what I've seen in the mirror, I dismiss her compliment. It's actually my mother who has the capacity to stun. I've spent fifteen, no, sixteen years looking at her, and her beauty still catches me by surprise.
She returns her attention to her pastry bag and with a gentle squeeze pipes the second "a" of my name in gold icing. Azra. The letters shimmer atop the chocolate-frosted cake. I know from previous birthdays how sugary the combination is, but nothing's too sweet for us. Salt, we are sensitive to, but the amount of sugar we eat would incite comas in humans.
She underlines my name with a squiggle of gold. Then she pipes that loaded "16" underneath. The exclamation mark she adds causes me to use my long fingernails to scratch at the skin underneath my bangle.
"So," my mother says, "just in case your stubbornness kept you under the covers for the better part of the day, I scheduled the party for tonight."
The groan that escapes my lips is a reflex. She knows I don't want this party because she knows I don't want this birthday.
At least the guest list is short. It's not like I have any friends from school. Having to hide who we are from humans means our social circle consists solely of fellow Jinn.
My mother wanted to invite all five of the female Jinn who make up her Zar, the lifelong friends she calls her "sisters," and their daughters, who, once we all reach sixteen, will officially make up mine. But I negotiated her down to just Samara, my mother's best friend, and her daughter, Laila, whom my mother has been desperate for me to make my best friend since we were born. They're the closest I have to a family.
My mother then makes me promise to be good, like I'm turning six instead of sixteen.
"I'd appreciate it if you could dial down the attitude for the party," she says. "Laila hasn't turned yet. Let her be excited, okay?"
She sinks sixteen candles into the smooth icing, and I promise to try. But I know it's a promise I won't be able to keep. The only way I could is if the wish I make when I blow those candles out comes true and this band magically falls off my wrist. But I know better. Birthday candles, eyelashes, shooting stars, that's not how wishes are granted. Being selected by the Afrit, that's what makes wishing so.
Even if I don't get a birthday wish, I should be able to spend the day however I want, wherever I want. Sun, sand, and a book. Maybe mussels for lunch. Considering we live less than ten minutes from a four-mile- long sandy shoreline, that's a wish even a newbie genie like myself could easily grant.
"If the party isn't until later," I say, "we can spend the whole day at the beach, right?"
"We could," my mother says, "but I think we need to start practicing."
The perfectly decorated cake leaps from the counter, beelining for my head. My instinct to duck kicks in a second after my instinct to throw my hands in the air. The cake freezes, hovering three feet above the hand- painted Moroccan tile floor.
I walk a circle around it, amazed not that the mass of chocolate is floating but that I'm the one making it float. Unlike the magic I've been doing upstairs in my room, this just happened. It was automatic. Something engaged even before my brain could.
I admit it. Having powers doesn't suck. If only they didn't come with being told when and how to use them.
"Who needs practice?" I say with confidence, despite the quiver in my hands.
Crumbs fly and chocolate icing splatters the dark cherry cabinets as the cake plummets to the floor. The three-second rule doesn't even get a chance to be applied, for the cake reassembles in perfect form in less time than it takes to blink.
My mother smiles and places her hands on her curvy hips. "Practice? Certainly not me."
No, my mother doesn't need practice. She's been doing magic since before I was born. Since the day she turned sixteen, probably even earlier. The rules were different back then.
I wipe the single leftover dollop of brown off the kitchen table. As I suck the icing from my finger, my heart pounds. I have no idea how I summoned the magic that suspended the cake in midair or if I can do it again. I'm as curious as I am terrified to find out.CHAPTER 3
"Now, Azra, now!"
At this moment, my mother is the one terrified. With good reason.
Flames from the inferno I ignited lick the shelf above the fireplace, threatening to consume her collection of Russian nesting dolls.
"Concentrate like I showed you!" My mother springs back from the stone hearth as a flickering yellow flame paws at her foot. "Like you did before." She positions herself behind her favorite pumpkin-colored armchair, more willing to sacrifice it than her hand-beaded slippers. "With the cake."
Excerpted from Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein. Copyright © 2015 Lori Goldstein. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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