London and her teenage friends live in a reprocessed world.Review:
Confined within Capital City’s concrete walls, London has done the impossible and the illegal. She’s created something New- a song. But her mentor, club owner Pauly, is not impressed. Since the historic Energy Crisis forced everyone behind walls generations ago, the Tycoons have ensured there is truly nothing new allowed under the sun. Pauly warns London to keep her song to herself, if she knows what’s good for her.
What he doesn’t know is that London is keeping an even bigger secret: she dreams. And she’s not alone. London’s band-mates and friends have begun dreaming as well, seeing themselves in “night pictures” as beings from another world. As Otherborn, they must piece together the story of their astral avatars, the Others, in order to save their world from a dreamless, hopeless future.
When Pauly is murdered and an Otherborn goes missing, London realizes someone is hunting them down. Escaping along the Outroads, they brave the deserted Houselands with only their dreams to guide them. Can they find their friend before the assassin finds them? Will being Otherborn save their lives, or destroy them?
I went into Otherborn expecting it to be a hard read, not because of what it was about, but because I hadn't been able to focus on reading much lately. What I found was a vivid. detailed world the pulled me in with characters that made me want to keep turning the page until there were none left.
I've read in other reviews that some people found London a little rough. I can definitely see their point. She is hard headed and guards her heart stronger than her steel-toed boots guard her feet. It makes her harder to be likable but growing up in a world like London's, I'm pretty sure another girl wouldn't have survived. I actually found London to be the perfect blend of roughness and vulnerability. She is tough on the outside but she isn't without fear, without suffering. She doesn't like it, like many of us and chooses to push it away rather than dwell but again, I contribute that to the harshness of the world she grows up in. She's used to loss but she's also used to getting back up again and fighting for another day. I do think that her character leaves a lot of room for growth in the next installment which I am more than excited to see.
The other members of her ragtag band (quite literally, they play music and everything) felt flushed out too. Not as nuanced as London but they weren't the main character so I did expect them to be. The love interest, Rye, provided some softness to London's tough as nails attitude. While London preferred to act, Rye was a thinker. It does mean that he refused to act, but he thought through things more thoroughly and didn't let his temper control him the way London did . I thought he was a really good balance to her and I liked that I could feel like they had a history before we got there. I think it made their relationship feel more real. Zen, Kim and Avery all also felt unique. I loved Kim's fake British accent mixed with his family's proud Korean heritage and Zen's large frame containing an even bigger heart.
Perhaps a bigger character than even London was the place she was from. The use of a ruined world reminded me a lot of Anna Carey's Eve, in its inventiveness and ability to turn things we know on their head. Capital City felt alive from the dingy alleyway London stopped to take a smoke in behind Dogma to her hole in the wall room. Everything about the tight spaces and polluted air oozes off the page providing the perfect backdrop for a character like London. I liked seeing how the author chose to repurpose things--the gang running the city riding around in ice cream and mail trucks and things like paper being a rare commodity. Just as vivid were the lands beyond the city.
The other thing that I found very interesting was the choice to write this novel in 3rd person. Normally, I'm not wild about 3rd person but I think it worked exceptionally well for this book because it was close enough to London to still feel relevant. We get all of London's thoughts and at the same time, we get little glimpses of how the other characters are feeling too. The writing itself was really well done. Beautiful passages describing the world, first kisses, and bringing to life everything from a long stretching road to the smell of rot oppressing the city.
There were a few passages that could be broken up to prevent info dumping but they were far and few between. I also got a little confused switching between London and her Otherborn sometimes because I couldn't tell where the real world ended and the dream began but I get the feeling that was sort of the point. I also felt that the pacing might have been a little too fast for my liking. The one time I really noticed this is when we are told about a conversation that happened instead of shown it when Avery goes missing. Even that is minor though.
Otherborn combines all my favorite things about the dystopian genre while creating a new story that manages to feel fresh. With a slew of compelling characters, an atmosphere that I believed in and a fast paced plot, Otherborn is as hard to put down as a catchy song is to get out of your head. For a book that focuses on anything New being bad, this one sure does give us something fresh. I'd definitely recommend it!