In the grand tradition of Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper (as well as the contemporary tradition of PLAIN KATE, UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS, and Shannon Hale) comes DARKBEAST. Keara lives in a world where babies are bound to a darkbeast, an animal companion whose purpose is to absorb all of Keara's darker emotions so that she can grow into adulthood as a better person. However, on the day she turns twelve, Keara is supposed to kill her darkbeast - a crow named Caw - and continue into adulthood alone.
When her nameday arrives and Keara is unable to kill her lifelong friend, she is forced to flee the Inquisitors who will come and try to force her back into the flock of the Twelve (the Gods that this world believes in). She runs away with the Travelers, a roving band of players, into a future she could not have possibly imagined.
Keara: made of awesome. Fantastic and flawed and feisty and Full of Feelings.
Writing: very skilled. Compelling story. Characters with real depth to them.
World building: truly excellent. Complex but well explained, so younger readers won't be totally lost.
Sequel: desired RIGHT NOW.