October 17, 2012

CYBILS F/SF: EVERY OTHER DAY, Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Reading speculative fiction for young adults, there are myriad tropes it's easy to exhaust: love triangles between Dark Brooding Bad, Shining Good and hapless human; angels, werewolves, dark fey and vampires in general. It's also easy to exhaust this whole idea of adult paranormal romance novelists writing for young adults. Some have transferable skills in this area, and some simply do not, and should write for the audience that they know best. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has portable skills. Her werewolf series was as reasonably decent as anything else including YA and werewolves, and this novel takes another positive leap away from more familiar and worn paranormal tropes. No werewolves, no dominance fights, nothing quite so typical as all of that. Combining alternative history, paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy and a happy blend of science fiction ...well, we'll just call it speculative fiction. I shan't spoil it for you, though - read and enjoy.

Reader Gut Reaction: I love alternate history sometimes. If it's well done. If it takes actual historical fact, and cleaves closely to it. If it extends the obvious cause-and-effects of said historical facts, instead of just making things up willy-nilly (there is Fiction, after all, and then there are Lies). I was pleasantly surprised to read the first few pages of this novel and realize I was Not In My World. I mean, yeah, when there are werewolves, I'm not in my world, either, but it seems some authors are content to have werebeasts be the only anomaly in an otherwise placid urban or suburban setting. In this case, happily, anomalies abound.

Concerning Character: Kali D'Angelo: normal high school student. Normal appearance. Normal teen relationship with her father, that is, completely full of lies and evasions (okay, a few more lies and evasions than strictly normal, but...). What's not normal is the secrets she keeps - the singing in her blood, the sudden Otherness of her body. The need to be one with the night, and killkillkillkillkill All The Things. Well, all the dark things, anyway. So what if hellhounds are supposed to be endangered species? Kali is here to put the 'danger' in "endangered." She's going to eradicate the suckers from the earth, because she's pretty sure the scientists are playing with what they don't understand. Fortunately, she's Other enough to get it. Or, so she thinks.

Being Other is time-consuming, but only for a given value of time... it's only every other day that Kali becomes Something Else. She's unstoppable, virtually bullet-proof in her other form, and she drinks the blood of her enemies. Or, at least licks it off of her teeth. And nobody knows a thing about it - just her. Which means that life - high school - home - is an unbearably lonely cycle. Good thing her scientist Dad's still arranging playdates for her with the boss's cheerleader daughter. Obviously, they were destined to be "bestest friends." Not.

Recommended for Fans Of...: HEX HALL series, by Rachel Hawkins, Kelly Armstrong's YA series; MIDNIGHT PREDATOR, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and of course, Buffy.

Themes & Things: There's a lot about The Other in this novel. It is reiterated ad infinitum that Kali feels her differences - being a girl with an absent mother and a distant father, instead of Like Other Kids who have both parents. Having her life go weird every other day. Having to realize that People Like Her are limited in their emotions, scope, interactions, friends, etc. etc. etc. etc.. Other characters are different as well - The Cheerleader and The Nerd turn out to be not as soul-sucked and stupid as cliché requires them to be, and in a nasty little twist The Love Interest turns out to be not so lovely (unfortunately, not as unlovely as he should have been, for my tastes, but I suspect I need more Chernobyl-style betrayals to be able to let go -- for some reason I wanted All Hope to be Lost, and then plain resurrected instead of leaving a kernel of hope). The characterizations are lacking a tiny bit for this novel to have been truly different, but it does take big steps in distinguishing itself from the herd. Apparently we'll be hearing more from this character.

Cover Chatter: LOVE the hourglass, with its vivid cargo of red fluid. The theme of time and change and the vines in the back remind me very much of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and I think that's deliberate. Every other day, Kali embraces her beast - and each time, she moves closer to another beast - one she's forgotten about... it's evocative and striking and really works. Yay for another cover sans flawless female face!

You can find EVERY OTHER DAY by Jennifer Lynn Barnes at an independent bookstore near you!


LinWash said...

I really like the cover too. I rediscovered this book on my wish list (having once again forgotten about it). I read the author's first werewolf book,Raised by Wolves, so I was curious about this and wondered if it was worth my increasingly limited reading time.

tanita✿davis said...

@ LinWash: It's not perfect, but it's a surprisingly decent - she is one of the few who can really manage to write for both, and I tend to always like her stuff.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I think the only other one of her books I read was Tattoo (I think that was the title)...also a Cybils nom some years back, and also sort of a grab-bag-paranormal urban fantasy rather than straight werewolves or what-have-you, which I appreciate. I'll keep an eye out for this one...