Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: Otherkin by Nina Berry

Author: Nina Berry
Publication: Kensington (July 31, 2012)

Description (from Amazon): In her fresh, inventive debut, Berry introduces a teenage feline shapeshifter coming to terms with her strange powers - the first in a mesmerizing new series that deals with such teen issues as body image and the strength to be found in friendship.

Description (from GoodReads): I thought I knew myself. Then I met Caleb.

Dez is a good girl who does as she’s told and tries not to be noticed.
Then she rescues a boy from a cage, and he tells her secrets about herself.

Now inside her burns a darkness that will transform her.

Everything is about to change -- and neither Caleb, nor the Otherkin, nor those who hunt them are prepared for what Dez will unleash.

My Thoughts: OTHERKIN was a fascinating story about a young girl named Dez who finds that she can shift and become a tiger. Dez has scoliosis and has worn a rigid plastic brace around her body for two years. She feels like a freak and her condition has made her socially isolated. She is embarrassed by the brace and doesn't want anyone to know about it. When she is asked to a dance by a cute young guy, she accepts but panics and runs when he puts his hands on her waist and feels the brace. When she gets home she takes off the brace and feels both rage and embarrassment. Those emotions cause her to make her first shift into a tiger. She doesn't even have time to be surprised by this development before she is darted by a young man standing outside her window.

When Dez awakens, she discovers that she is back in human form and is in a cage with silver bars. A young man in a neighboring cage talks with her but his conversation is more baffling than enlightening as he assumes she knows all about being a shapeshifter. She learns that she has been captured by the Tribunal - a secret organization which has taken on the task of destroying all the otherkin. Dez learns that her fellow prisoner Caleb is able to manipulate shadow. The two of them manage to escape but know that the Tribunal will soon be on their trail.

Caleb knows of a potential safe place that the two of them can go. He knows of a secret school run by another shadow caller named Morfael. The two of them manage to find the school but then have to pass Morfael's test and be accepted by the local council made up of representatives of the remaining shifter groups - eagles, wolves, bears, cats, and rats. Dez quickly learns that each shifter group is separate and hates the others. They won't work together to destroy the Tribunal even though Caleb and Dez know where their headquarters is. However, they do agree to let Caleb and Dez stay at the school.

Dez learns a lot at the school as she meets one representative from each of the shifter groups who are her fellow students. She also learns that she is the only tiger shifter known to be alive though it is unusual for her to be in North America. Luckily, her Wiccan mom adopted her from a Russian orphanage when she was just eighteen months old. Dez has a wonderful family relationship with her mom and stepdad. She is a strong and confident young woman. She doesn't understand the rivalries between the different shifter groups and tries to make her classmates into a team. She is teaching them that they can work together and care for each other despite what their parents have told each of them.

It is lucky that they learn to work together because the Tribunal isn't going to go away. They come to the school and capture one of the kids. After some initial reversion to old habits, Dez convinces the kids to work together to rescue their friend. 

Dez and Caleb fall in love but Dez knows that he is keeping secrets from her. Through the course of their rescue attempts she learns a lot of his secrets and also tries to uncover some of the secrets about herself. What happened to her parents? Why did she end up in a Russian orphanage? 

This was a well-written and engaging story. I loved both Dez and Caleb. The other kids at the school - November, London, Siku and Arnaldo - are also well-rounded characters though London and November are the ones we get to know best because Dez spends the most time with them. Their teacher Morfael is quite mysterious. And the villains, especially Lazar and his father Ximon, are wonderfully creepy and menacing. I do get a little tired of villains using religion to justify all the evil they do though. 

Fans of the paranormal and especially fans of shifters will enjoy this story and be looking forward to the sequel which will be coming out next February.

Favorite Quote:
"Nah, just a London thing. Can you believe the fake nose rings? Such a poser."

"How do you know they are fake?"

"Because I see her shift three times a day." When I looked blank, she rolled her eyes. "Shifting heals everything--tattoos, piercing holes, scars where losers like London like to cut themselves just to feel alive. Only thing you can change is your hair, since it's not living tissue. She'd be covered with tats of skulls, and other cliches and punctured like a pincushion if she could. But she has to settle for a bad dye job and fake piercings."

"Must be frustrating, not to be able to express herself the way she wants." I put on my coat.
I received this finished copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here

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