Other by Karen Kincy 2010
IQ "My pooka half rises slowly within me, leaning against my bones. It isn't eager to shapeshift and fight. It's...defensive. Feeling my fear. My fear? It is me, of course. I can't talk about myself as if I have split personalities. I can't section off half of myself and pile all the recklessness and shame there." Gwen pgs 166-167
Gwenhwyfar (Gwen) Williams is half-pooka, half human. Gwen has never met her Welsh pooka father, and Others in her community (the name for paranormal creatures in this book) hide their identities, so she has no one to talk to about the complications and joys of being Other. As half-pooka, Gwen can shapeshift. She usally shapeshifts into a horse as its the most common form of a pooka (I chose the IQ to illustrate how Gwen feels about shapeshifting), but she can change into any animal. A new werewolf pack has moved into Gwen's hometown of Klikamuks, Washington and at the same time, Others are being murdered. No one is safe, Gwen has lost one dear friend and she does not intend on losing another. Gwen decides to investigate who is killing Others and with the help of Tavian, a Japanese fox spirit, she comes closer and closer to the truth. But Gwen's time is up.
I read this because April really liked it. Plus the fact that she describes Tavian as being awesome and Asian, caught my eye. If not for that review, I wouldn't have read this book. Not because it didn't sound interesting, but because I don't have time right now to read non-poc YA/MG books, especially in the paranormal genre. But I'm so glad I saw that review because I would have missed out on a highly unique and enjoyable story. I thoroughly enjoyed learning a bit about the world of pookas. A small quibble with the story, is that personally, I wanted more information on pooka and Wales. Part of me wishes that Gwen had visited Wales/met her father/interacted with other pookas. But there's a possibility of a sequel and the book worked just fine the way it is. The ending seemed really rushed though. The build-up was done at a good pace, not too fast and not too slow, but all of a sudden, bullets were flying, people were being kidnapped and then BAM we know who the killer is. That being said, I never knew who the killer was, I was kept on my toes.
Tavian is a marvelous character. He is versatile, however, he has no noticeable flaws. So in that respect, he is not realistic. While I can't overlook that, I do have much love for him. I love that he's short, Asian, and hot. How many times have you read/seen an Asian teenage guy portrayed/described as 'cute' or 'hot'. Or even a short guy? So hooray for guys shorter than their crushes/hot Asian guys! Heehee ;) In addition to his looks, Tavian is incredibly patient and compassionate. Tavian and Gwen start off as friends and while there is chemistry bubbling between them, it is subtle. Tavian is a kitsune, which is a Japanese fox spirit. He can turn into a fox as well as create illusions. Zach (Gwen's boyfriend) is OK. I admit he's a nice guy, but he has some really rude/awful moments and even if Gwen forgives him, I cant bring myself to. I liked that the love triangle is so understated and while the reader may think it's obvious who Gwen should pick, the author completely surprises you with actions from both love interests. Gwen is utterly charming. She's not too bratty, not sickly-sweet, she was someone I could relate to and since her personality wasn't on either extreme, I felt that she was someone I would meet at my school (although she is homeschooled so I wouldn't actually meet her :p). She's quiet, but quite astute and she has a rebellious and protective spirit, which I adore. Her half-pooka side does not define her but it makes the story a more enriching experience.
Other is a singular novel set in modern day America in which Others are a natural sight, but they face prejudice. The prejudice that Others face can easily be uncomfortably remind people of how GLBT people are treated along with ethnic minorities. In addition, Gwen's feelings of isolation due to her half-pooka side run parallel to feelings of loneliness that other teenagers may feel as a result of what-have-you. The romance is refreshing since it's understated and while the love triangle leans towards one of the love interests, neither one is vilified. I had trouble liking Zach (as crazy as it sounds I was better able to sort-of understand the killer than him) but I think that has to do with my own personal experiences with prejudice. I can be harsh when it comes to ignorant people when it comes to discrimination. Gwen is a heroine that everyone will like and readers will delight in the fact that SOME paranormal creatures openly interact with humans. More pookas and kitsunes please.
Disclosure: Won from Young Adult (& Kids!) Book Central. Thank you!