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.
Otherkin starts out with Desdemona (Dez) feeling frustrated about herself. Being diagnosed with scoliosis, she has no choice but to wear a back brace twenty-three hours every day. At 16, she feels really awkward. As an adopted child, she feels she has to act in a self-controlled manner. She feels she has to show her respect when she’s around her mom. Because of her physical condition, She feels shy and self-conscious when she is around boys. She is afraid that boys would pity her or even reject her when they learn about her diagnosis. She doesn’t dare to get close to anyone. She doesn’t know how to embrace all of who she is. In her own way, she believes she is a freak even though she has always been a good girl. When a dance turns into an awkward moment of stiffness and embarrassment, Dez rushes back home, feeling agonized and defeated. She is angry at her physical awkwardness. She feels really fed up. With rage blazing through her, she roars and when she drops her hands to the ground, she notices she’s been transformed into a big, furry tiger. Bewildered, she hears a weird sound and then something stabs her, making her feel lethargic and weak. She becomes unconscious. When she wakes up, she finds herself inside a cage…
I don’t know about you, but I’m totally enthralled by the beginning of this story!
Even though Dez is a shape-shifter, she is an easily relatable character. I can understand why she has such a negative image about herself. I can understand her self-directed anger. I can understand her sense of insecurity. I can understand her wanting to find a place that she can truly feel she belongs. I can relate to her self-loathing. I can relate to her fantasy about boys. I can relate to her compassion, her wanting to be liked and loved. While she has to endure pain, agony, hardship and challenges, I love that she still believes in good. She still cares for the wellness of others. She still looks for ways to help not just herself, but those whom she cares.
I love Dez’s journey of self-exploration and discovery. Channeling desperation and anger can be self-destructive, but recognizing anger, fright, self-hatred and at the same time, making the option to connect with love and acceptance is definitely not an easy choice. And yet Dez gradually learns to let go of her negative emotions and embraces self-acceptance, and because of that, she frees herself from the ill-fated agony of her old self.
Otherkin is so much more than an entertaining story of a newbie shifter finding her path to master her skills as a shape-shifter. To me, this is a survival manual showing me what to do when conflicts arisen. This is a handy guide helping me to learn to embrace acceptance without running away or putting on a façade of aloofness and indifference. It is a beautifully-crafted illustration of how to build true friendship and honor diversity in a modern world that is technology-obsessed and terrorist-haunted.
I must say I’m totally amazed and blown away by the depth of insights being offered.
Thank you, Nina Berry! You are truly a masterful storyteller.