9

It was a young adult fantasy read that came out around the same time as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I was told by the bookstore owner at the time that it was recommended for people who liked the Harry Potter series and needed a filler. I don't remember much about the plot of this, BUT it had a male protagonist, and a female secondary character... she had an uncommon name. His name was common, and I want to say it's Arthur Pendragon, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. I know this isn't in The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix.

What I remember of the plot: There was a lot of tribal related imagery and lore. At the end the young girl turned into a panther, and the boy I'm pretty sure turned into an animal as well, but my memory can't seem to decide if he was a black panther or a bird of prey. I'm pretty sure the female character had dark skin and the male character had light skin, and that he fell for her. They were around 12-14 if I remember correctly. I also remember there was a lot of jungle themes, and feel like the amazon was the jungle of choice. I also just remembered that the boy was on a vacation, or had just moved to a village near the jungle, from a heavily civilized place.

5

I think this might be "City of the Beasts" by Isabelle Allende. It was published in 2002.

The main character's name was Alexander Cold, the secondary female character was Nadia Santos. The story has Alexander going to live with his grandmother, a reporter for a natural magazine, and she takes him along on an expedition to the Amazon in search of the mythical city of beasts.

Both Alex and Nadia are adopted by 'the people of the mist' (the tribe whose stories about the beasts they are investigating). There are references to tribal lore and customs. Alex turns into a jaguar, his totem animal, while Nadia's totem is the eagle. Alex is light skinned, Nadia I think is darker. They do find the mythical beasts, and are given gifts (by trading things they value) - including

a cure for his mother's sickness, the reason he was accompanying his grandmother to begin with.

There is also an altercation with the expedition,

a corrupt entrepreneur planning on murder and exploitation, the kids manage to triumph.

The totems are reversed from the question, but still fairly close, and the age ranges are also very close - Alex is 15, Nadia 12. I could see this book being recommended for someone who liked the Harry Potter series. I'm not sure if this is the same book you're looking for, but it seemed like a fairly close match.

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