ARC Review: “Otherkin” by Nina Berry

Otherkin (Otherkin #1) by Nina Berry (Click for Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Desdemona Gray doesn’t even bother with crushes on cute boys now that she’s forced to wear a hard plastic back brace all day.  What guy would want to literally have to knock on a girl to be let in?  So she squashes down every impossible desire until an uber-awkward brush with a boy brings out all her frustration and she changes…into a tiger.  In that bewildering moment, she is captured by Ximon, the leader of a fanatical group hell-bent on wiping out the five remaining tribes of shape-shifters, known as the otherkin. 

With help from a handsome, mysterious fellow captive named Caleb, she escapes and goes on the run, finding allies and learning the truth behind the legends of wizards and were-creatures.  Then Ximon goes too far, and Dez must tap into all her buried desires to find her inner tiger and save herself, her new friends, and the boy she loves.

4 1/2 stars

This review is of an ARC received from NetGalley. You can get a copy for yourself July 31st, 2012.

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I did not go into this book with high expectations. The first book I ever requested from NetGalley was a shifter book so bad I couldn’t finish it. I haven’t read anything about shifters regularly since … the Animorphs when I was about 12. BUT, this story has an awesome cover with a tiger on the front so how COULDN’T I request it?

And I’m so happy I did.

Just the first chapter is literally explosive. You instantly get a feel for Dez, how she feels about herself AND get a bunch of action–action that, by the way, rarely ever stops for a good while. The perimeters of the novel are pretty quickly established, but you aren’t hit over the head with exposition which is fantastic. In fact, the amount of info-learning but not info-dumping was excellent throughout the novel, even though the mythology was very unique and slightly confusing in places. I understood the gist of it and was never bogged down in trying to understand, which is a big plus for me, Ms. Short Attention Span.

However, about a fourth of the way book, the plotline twisted in such a way that I deflated and moaned like I was a hot air balloon stabbed through the heart. Caleb tells Dez that there is a place they can be safe, and guess where it is?

A school. A shifter school. A freaking school.

Schools feel like such a cliché these days that I CANNOT stand them when they happened. This is also how that first shifter novel I read really rolled over and died. I had to stop reading because I was so worried this book was also going to dip into horribleness.

But it DIDN’T.

I kept reading and almost couldn’t believe it. Berry managed to make it readable, the characters not too much of clichés and really make it feel REAL. The tension and then camaraderie between the classmates came right out of the pages. It really set up the ending well, and–most importantly–it was READABLE. I can be nasty when a book drops into clichés I hate, so I fully expected to start hating everything. But instead, i loved it. I was shocked!

The end brought back that rolling action I loved in the beginning. The cooperation between all the shifters and the descriptions were absolutely fantastic. The end of the end seemed to almost be anticlimactic and flat after all that action, though it did make sense. The pacing of the book, for the most part, however, was fast, which I love. There were never many points where I felt I could put the book down.

But about that  docked star: A little bit of it is the ending, but not a lot of it. Most of it came from Dez and Caleb’s relationship. I hate insta-love. I will forever and always dock stars for insta-love. The only reason it wasn’t a full star was because Dez and Caleb weren’t–shockingly and fantastically–the center point of the novel. It was more about action and information than their romance. However, when you’ve only known each other for less than a month and have kissed only once, there is no way multiple conversations about seeing Dez naked don’t come off as creepy. Caleb’s kind of buzzed-all-the-time attitude didn’t help matters. Given that I loved Dez as a character, I kept screaming ABORT, ABANDON SHIP! But of course she didn’t. They’ve found eternal insta-love.

All in all, however, this book turned into a favorite for me. I loved the descriptions, the history, and the pacing. The action was fantastic, and I was ridiculously impressed at how Berry wrote in a school setting that I didn’t hate the guts of and in fact really enjoyed. For once, there was romance for the main character that wasn’t the driving force of the story, so I even forgave the insta-love a little bit. If you love shifter books, GET THIS NOW. Even if you don’t love shifter books and are looking for something new–like I was–I RECOMMEND IT. July 31st, folks, preorder now!

The second book in the Otherkin series, Othermoon, is slated for a February 2013 release date.