Hunters of Chaos: 04/18/16
Hunters of Chaos by Crystal Velasquez is the start of a new YA series about four teenage girls who have the abilities to shape shift into large cats. They are up against the Brotherhood of Chaos to keep the world safe.
The story is told from the point of view of Ana, a girl of Mayan decent. She knows her heritage and she's proud of it. She loves her aunt and uncle dearly and is shocked when they suddenly tell her that she's being sent to New Mexico to attend an all girls school called Temple.
In these types of books, the new student, the "fish out of water" often faces teasing or bullying for most of the book until he or she has some revelation or finally manages to befriend an ally. While Ana does face some of that, including a roommate who clearly doesn't want her as a roommate, she also quickly makes friends with a core group of girls, which later includes one of the bullies, Lin, a Chinese diplomat's daughter.
Besides Lin, there is also Shani and Doli. Shani is Egyptian and Doli is Diné, meaning she's a local girl. Their friend coincides with earthquakes and the discovery of a new temple. Because of its location, it's assumed to be Anasazi, the "old ones" who inhabited the area before the Dineacute or Hopi. Things are clearly, though, off about it being Anasazi.
Now while the Diné have beliefs about transformation, it's not seen as a good thing. It's just the opposite, seen as unnatural, and out of balance with mankind's place in nature.
So I admit to being skeptical when Doli was included in the group, even though she of all the characters, was the most obvious one to be part of it. Skinwalkers or Yee n'aldooshi always manage to show up in stories written about Diné by non-Diné. Doli, while having the ability to turn into a Puma (like Maya in The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong), she is far more dubious about her newfound powers. That Velasquez includes a disease in Doli's reaction is a huge step forward for most of these stories.
Why these particular girls have these transformative powers isn't answered. It isn't fate or a family legacy, though in Ana's case, it's implied her mother might have had the ability too. Instead the emphasis is on what they decide to do with their supernatural powers and how they come to terms with it.