Othergirl by Nicole Burstein

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Othergirl by Nicole Burstein

Buy Othergirl by Nicole Burstein at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: A fun, witty and engaging story that skilfully mixes a strong contemporary tale of friendship, with an intriguing world of superheroes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Andersen Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1783440610

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Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016

Imagine a world where superheroes are real and very much awesome. Imagine a teenage girl who discovers she has amazing powers, that she can fly and toss fire. And then imagine that you aren’t this girl, but rather her very normal best friend. The one who patches up her friend's costume and covers for her at school, who worries and frets about her GCSEs while simultaneously planning how to get her friend noticed by the worldwide network of heroes, the Vigils. This isn't the story of Erica the superhero, but rather the story of Louise, loyal friend and sidekick.

Firstly, I'm a huge fan of comic book superheroes, and love contemporary fiction with strong friendships at their core, so safe to say I was massively intrigued by the premise of Othergirl. Fortunately, it manages to deliver well on both fronts. There are a number of fun references and jokes that show that the author not only knows her stuff when it comes to classic superhero stories, but is a genuine fan. I liked the idea of the Vigils. In the age of mobile phones and social media they have essentially become a new tier of celebrity. Videos of them are guaranteed to go viral, and schoolkids across the world are obsessed with them.

The central friendship between Erica and Louise is wonderfully drawn out. In particular, Louise is a brilliant and refreshing narrator. I love how sensible and practical a character she is, and her worries and insecurities feel honest and real. She might be a little envious of her friend's powers, but that never stops her from being an incredibly loyal sidekick. With Erica being the only one with the powers, there is potential for a gulf to exist in their friendship, yet the two girls treat each other as equals, with respect and warmth. Nonetheless, they aren't without their flaws and conflicts inevitably arise, especially with the appearance of romantic interests. However, the girls remain realistic and likeable throughout.

Telling the story from the point of the sidekick is a bold and original choice. On the whole, the author does a great job with it, but perhaps inevitably, the final third wasn't as exciting as it could have been, given the setting and build-up. The villains were intriguing enough, but didn't feel sufficiently threatening, which added to the slightly underwhelming feel of the conclusion. I enjoyed the easy, engaging style of the prose, filled with well-judged humour, but thought it just lacked that little bit of spark needed to make it really immersive. I also felt the book could've done with being a little longer. I adored the central friendship between Louise and Erica, and would have loved to get to know both characters, as well as the delightfully geeky Toby, a lot more. Similarly, I thought the world-building was very well done, filled with subtle social commentary and gentle affectionate digs at comic book tropes, and would have loved to have explored it further. Nonetheless, what we do get is a fun, witty and engaging story that skilfully mixes a strong contemporary story of friendship, with the intrigue and excitement of superheroes.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Kevin Brooks' iBoy is a darker, grittier superhero story, more akin to the tone of Batman that ticked all of my boxes. Gone by Michael Grant is probably my favourite example of comic book style powers done in YA fiction, and boasts amazing action and a wonderful cast of characters both with and without powers. For younger readers, Sophie McKenzie's Medusa Project series is worth checking out. Finally, for those who enjoyed the central friendship of Othergirl, I would highly recommend Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

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Buy Othergirl by Nicole Burstein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Othergirl by Nicole Burstein at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Othergirl by Nicole Burstein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Othergirl by Nicole Burstein at Amazon.com.


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