The 13th Sign, by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (Feiwel & Friends, January 2013, upper middle grade)
When Jalen unlocks an old book (The Keypers of the Zodiac) picked up at Madame Beausoleil's strange little store in New Oreleans (one stop shopping for all your astrological needs), the world changes. The opening of the book has let a thirteenth sign of the Zodiac into the world--Ophiuchus, the serpent healer. And now that there are thirteen signs, instead of twelve, Jalen is now no longer a Sagittarius, but a child of Ophiucus...and a shift has occurred in the lives and personalities of all those now born under a different sign.
But the return of Ophiucus to the Zodiac is not welcome to the other 12 signs. Not only will chaos follow the shift in personalities, but if a human gains control of Ophiucus' powers, they will have power over death. So Gemini knocks on Jalen's door with a warning--she must find Ophiuchus and cast her back into the heavens. But the incarnations of the 12 signs, themselves now present in New Orleans, see Jalen as an enemy, and she must somehow defeat each one, and cast them back as well.
So Jalen, her best friend, and her best friends brother set off on a wild journey across the city, encountering the challenges posed by each of the signs of the Zodiac.
It's a fun, wild story, and reminded me of Percy Jackson in its set up--mortal kids becoming players in a deadly game with celestial beings, and having to face them down in the real world, leaving chaos in their wake. It's high on action and adventure; character development is a tad problematic, because the reader is asked early on to assume that the characters of the protagonists have changed profoundly, making it hard to feel one knows them. I also had to work just a tad too hard to accept that birth date actually does affect personality--I am not a believer in astrology. Still, many fantasy books demand that the reader accept even stranger things...and it is a neat idea, nicely executed!
In short--the fascinating premise and the series of dramatic encounters with the Signs of the Zodiac move the reader along briskly, and romance is not a plot point, making this an excellent one to offer the 11 or 12 year old not yet interested in full on YA fantasy/paranormal romance. That being said, there's enough zing to the story to keep the interest of an older reader too.
Note: astronomers have been talking about this 13th sign for centuries....but I am a proud Capricorn, and I'm sticking to it.
Courtesy of the author, I have a signed hardcover copy to giveaway--just leave a comment by midnight next Monday, July 29th.
disclaimer: signed hardcover of my own happily received from the author, and read with great enjoyment.
I have another giveaway going on right now--win a copy of Sylo (plus t-shirt and baseball cap) at this post!