Author: Nina Berry
Series: Otherkin #1
Dez is used to making her own way through life. Scoliosis has put her in a brace, but she’s managed to be pretty normal despite that. Then she turns into a tiger, wakes up in a cage, rescues a boy . . . Life is about to get very, very different. Now she’s learning to be a shifter with others like her, but those who took her once still want to see her dead.
I liked some things about this a lot. Dez’s struggles with how she sees herself, particularly in light of her scoliosis, give her some good depth. She refuses to play the victim. And I liked the nuance to her strength and will—what helps her is also, at times, what limits her.
The other shifters were also a lot of fun. From a geeky opera wanna-be to the punk who can’t manage to keep a tattoo (since shifting erases all damage), Dez’s new companions are unique and fun. It’s disappointing the shifters are limited to just five groups, but at least they are groups and not single breeds. For example, the cat shifters includes both tiger and lynx. And I liked the different ways each of them has to shift. You can see a pattern, but also the individuality.
I’m personally not that fond of hot-boy-instant-love stories, so I mostly skimmed the bits with Caleb. I like him as a character, though his tragic backstory and big secret were not exactly surprises. But I like his potential, his power, and where he might be going next.
But there were also things that made me roll my eyes. Setting up the villains as an organization of fanatics who wants to exterminate the shapeshifters (while being hypocritical about using what abilities are useful to them), fine. No problems there. But the motive is so weak! They hate shifters, because God. They mouth some cheap rhetoric and throw the word God on the end and suddenly it’s a religious thing and we don’t need to explain any further. Oh, and Dez’s mom is a Wiccan who is good, even though nothing in the story really shows her being a Wiccan, other than saying Goddess once or twice. So it’s just really flat characterization that relies on very old and tired tropes. The shifters get a good amount of complexity, but the villains are clowns, right down to marrying off a young teenage girl to an ugly old man, because this will purify her.
So I enjoyed the shifters, and I might keep going with the series, but it was disappointing to have such stock bad guys, who are either too cartoony to take seriously or just cannon fodder. I rate this book Neutral.