What’s that?! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?! NO! It’s Othergirl, the debut novel from ex-Bookseller and all round Ladynerd Nicole Burstein. I’ve known Nicole for a good few years now, so I was super excited when a luminous yellow padded envelope turned up at the shop with a proof in. The book itself isn’t out until April of this year, but I thought I’d get on a review early to generate some pre-release buzz for what is a fun, exciting novel of superheroes and friendship.
Louise has been friends with Erica since they were at Primary School, and while things have drifted apart between them since they started High School (Erica’s natural good looks and confidence gives her an instant ticket to the in-crowd), their friendship is rekindled when Erica starts to develop superpowers. The two girls live in a world of The Vigils – super powered individuals across the world who protect the public, and who are treated like celebrities in the press. Anyone who’s anyone are obsessed with the Vigils, and most of Louise & Erica’s school friends have posters of the biggest superheroes plastered all over their walls. Erica knows that her studious best friend is the perfect person to help her train her fiery new abilities, and Louise’s sewing skills make for a mean superhero costume. Even though Louise often feels taken for granted, she’s honoured to be part of something so special and exciting. Erica is training to join the London based Vigil group, and Louise is going to be there every step of the way. When Flamegirl (Erica’s choice of name, not Louise’s) manages to help out at an explosive fire in her first public appearance, she’s immediately spotted by Vigil talent scout Jay, who starts to prep her for inclusion into the superhero team. Louise takes an immediate dislike to Jay, but she can’t be sure if it’s not just because he’s muscling in on her territory – helping Erica achieve her full potential had always been her calling, and without that she’s just a short nerd with no outstanding talents beyond knitting. Can their friendship withstand Erica’s new life?
Othergirl is so much fun! Nicole’s managed to pour so much of her personality into the book, and her characters. Louise is sweet, and her self-deprecating nature lends the book a great sense of humour. By narrating the whole story from her perspective, it lends the book a relatable feeling to it, and lets us feel what it’s like to be normal in a world where your best friend is superpowered. Louise’s dedication to Erica and her drive to do the right thing creates a wonderful friendship to read and helps avoid the normal cattiness that seems to crop up in relationships between so many girls in YA fiction. Erica’s character arc is great, and her secret insecurities stop her from coming across as totally perfect and aloof – she makes mistakes, and ultimately she’s a young girl who dreams of being a hero, and that makes her so sweet, even when her fiery temperament threatens to boil over. Toby, Louise’s Vigil obsessed friend is also great fun to read too – bold and awkward all at once, he balances the two girls perfectly.
Another one of Nicole’s strengths in Othergirl is her dialogue, which feels natural and witty, and makes for smooth reading. She manages to keep situations involving Superheroes feel down to Earth and makes the perilous situations still fun and light with the way her characters interact with each other. The plot is standard comic book origin story, and Nicole’s passion and love for all things comic book and superhero is weaved into the story expertly, her narrative is full of her obvious love for the genre – one that is sorely lacking in YA. Comic books are getting bigger every year, and with more and more young people getting interested in the world of Superheroes, Nicole has a great chance to create her own universe and introduce teenagers to intelligent, diverse characters with thoughtful plots and a strong sense of humour. She’s also got a great chance to support more and more girls who are getting into the world of superheroes – a world that has always been predominantly masculine. I think Othergirl is going to be the start of a great series, with a real feel of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl about it, and I can already tell that Nicole’s writing style is going to evolve and develop in line with her wit and her drive to tell stories.
Thanks for Reading!
Othergirl is officially out on sale from April 2nd 2015.