For fans of Stranger Things and the works of Neil Gaiman, Pawned is a Young Adult novel that blends dark fantasy adventure and noir — on ...

Review || Pawned by Laura Bickle

For fans of Stranger Things and the works of Neil Gaiman, Pawned is a Young Adult novel that blends dark fantasy adventure and noir — on the New Jersey boardwalk.

You can hock almost anything at my family’s pawn shop…even your own soul.

Pawned coverYou think running a pawn shop full of cursed objects with your dad and grandpops is cool? Try it for a week and get back to me. Now try picking up any random object and seeing its creeptastic history play out right before your eyes — yup, that’s my little “gift.” It’s my job to sort out what’s haunted and hexed from what’s not, and do my best to keep all of us — including Bert, our ice-cream-truck-driving-lizard demon — employed.

So it wasn’t all sunshine, roses, and possessed samurai swords even before grandpops’ heart attack — but now things are garden-gnome levels of bad. Dad made a deal with the wrong end of the dark side to save grandpops’ life, putting my whole family smack dab between the forces of evil and our friendly local blow-your-pawn-shop-to-smithereens mobsters. And Lily next door…I shouldn’t even be thinking about Lily.

All I ever wanted was to get out of this crap town and away from my messed-up family, and instead it looks like I’m gonna have to use every scrap of magic in this joint or there won’t be any family left to leave behind…

"I was born into crazy."
The first sentence explains a lot about this book. It's an adventurous ride full of magical objects, psychic gifts, a t-rex shaped demon, and the mob. Raz (Erasmus only to his father) helps run Stannick's Pawn Shop after school. Except this is no ordinary pawn shop. Managed by Raz's father, uncle, and grandfather, all the men in the family have the gift of psychometry, i.e. they can see the history of any object they hold. 

This sounds like an exciting life but all Raz wants is to get out of town and away from the responsibility of his gift. When his dad decides to make a deal with a devil to keep his grandfather ticking, and the cursed item that makes it all possible is wanted by the mob, Raz is stuck in the middle. 

Bert was my favorite character from the very beginning. Demon Sockmonster and security guard of Stannick's Pawn Shop, Bert isn't human, but he has more compassion and empathy for Raz than his own father. He's definitely the comic relief when the story gets a bit dark. The other characters were great, but I have a soft spot for T-rex, especially those that wear kitschy t-shirts and drive ice cream trucks.

I wasn't sure how the mob aspect would play out in the story. It seemed very incongruous in the blurb but actually fits in quite well. There's also a very sweet love story between Raz and the girl next door. 

With a unique plot, plenty of action, and fantastic characters, Pawned is an intense read with lots of laughs sprinkled throughout.  

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About the Author

Laura Bickel

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.

Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.