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*The Otherworldlies* by Jennifer Anne Kogler- young readers book review
The Otherworldlies
by Jennifer Anne Kogler
Ages 9-12 400 pages Eos June 2008 Hardcover    

Swallows aren’t the only flying things in San Juan Capistrano’s skies late at night. This Halloween, they’re also the haunts of vampire bats - at least they are in the world of not-so-typical teen Fern McAllister in The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Anne Kogler.

Like all teens, Fern just wants to fit in, to be accepted by her peers, to live a normal life. But she has never been known as being “typical” since her first two baby teeth at two years of age were her canine fangs. Her hearing has always seemed to be keener than anyone else’s in her family; she beats her twin and older brothers in races, and she has been able to communicate with Byron, the family dog, since she was six. She’s even taught the dog to climb up the jacaranda tree in the backyard with her, a favorite place when she needs to get away from peers who don’t understand her and think she’s weird. Still, when she starts teleporting, learns how to control water and discovers she’s a vampire, that’s enough to freak even her out.

Fern’s brother Sam is always there for her, lending her strength and helping her cope with the cruel remarks her classmates direct her way. They don’t look very much alike: Sam has blond hair while hers is dark. Because of this, people refer to them as “the salt and pepper twins.” They are together when they notice the first dead bird, a swallow hanging “lifelessly by a silken string from the corner of the wooden eave of the house.”

Sam muses aloud that perhaps the bird “hung itself.” Though this idea is freaky in itself, the dead swallow is just the first of many more dead birds that keep mysteriously showing up around the neighborhood. Thatt’s just the beginning of the bizarre but engrossing things you’ll read about in this highly entertaining novel.

The signs are all there, if there were only a person who could read them - they’d be as plain as words in a book. There’s Fern’s extreme sensitivity to the sunlight, compelling her to wear sunglasses so her eyes can handle being outside. There’s the blistering of her sensitive skin, also due to exposure from the sun. She usually stays apart from the other students, both because they ridicule her and because she’s grown accustomed to being by herself. There’s her strange blacking out and teleportation to Pirate’s Cove, a place she, Sam, her older brother Eddie and her mom often went when Fern was younger, for vacations.

At Pirate’s Cove, she meets an odd-looking man “the color of an uncooked hotdog” with a bad case of sunburn. The man is wearing eight watches on his left arm, the one closest to his wrist being “shiny gold” in color. This man seems to know secrets about Fern, and though he makes her uncomfortable and wonder if he’s safe to talk to, he tells her “Don’t be alarmed” and that she should look into a nearby cave, where she’ll find something that will be “important to ya, I swears.” The inscription she finds there in Greek, the initials of her mom and someone whose initials are PM, and discovering a part of the cave she’s never seen before, though she’s been there many times before in the past, play a key part in the novel.

When one of the most popular girls at her school, Lindsey Lin, befriends her, Fern begins to learn more and more about who she really is, and how unique her powers are, even for a vampire - or, to be politically correct, an “Otherworldly.” Otherworldlies - vampires - come in several varieties, it seems, and are divided, into two distinct groups: the Rollins, who want to live in harmony side-by-side with the “Normals” and refrain from drinking their blood, and the Blouts, who believe vampires are superior to Normals and who regularly give in to their bloodthirsty desires by drinking their victims’ blood. Lindsey gives Fern the eye drops and skin lotion to alleviate her eye and skin sensitivities and aids Fern and Sam in their quest to stop the evil vampire, Vlad, from taking over the world.

Vlad wants to lure Fern, whom he believes is potentially one of the Unusual Eleven (eleven vampires with unique powers who were prophesied ages ago), over to the side of the Blouts. He wants her to use her powers to recover the legendary Omphalos Stone. With it, Fern, and his army of fellow Blouts and monsters called the Hundred Handers helping him, Vlad plans to become the leader of all of the vampires and subjugate the human race, whom he considers to be inferior cattle.

Can Fern hope to defeat the most powerful vampire of her day and stop his evil plans? If you enjoy reading other books about vampires, like those written by Stephanie Meyers, you’re sure to love The Otherworldlies. It presents a new take on vampires that readers will find fascinating and immensely entertaining. It’s a fun, suspenseful read for these October nights leading up to Halloween, or for any time of the year.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2008 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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