Review: Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Genre: supernatural/paranormal, young-adult
Series: N/A as of yet
Pages: 336 (nook NetGalley uncorrected ARC)
Published: expected December 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

An imaginative and unique supenatural/"preternatural" novel, though with its share of flaws, I enjoyed my first novel from the mind of Ms. Barnes more than anticipated. Every Other Day tells the unique tale of Kali D'Angelo, a half-Indian teeange girl with supernatural (which are called "preternaturals" in this novel, though that just makes me think of Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarrabotti, but I digress) abilities every other day. When she is "Other" Kali is an indestructible monster-killing machine - and I always thoroughly enjoy an ass-kicking female lead. Kali's unique abilities provide a nice dichotomy day-to-day between the powerful hunter and the normal teenage girl. She's a lonely and isolated young woman, which gives her a "hero complex" in order for others to see her. When a practical stranger named Bethany is marked for death - while Kali is human - Kali decides to try and save her while in her human, and thus much weaker, form. I had to wonder, is Kali performing a selfless act of kindness, or does she have a death wish? I liked a lot about this novel right from the set-up: from the kick-ass girl lead, a fair amount of snark and sarcasm, an unusual magical creature as an antagonist and a non-white protagonist. Unfortunately not everything in the novel lived up to my expectations for the story, but I will say I had a great time reading this.

Kali is a usually strong and mostly appealing protagonist for the story: her "voice" from the first-person persective is compelling and vibrant with emotion (usually anger, pity or scorn.) Kali is a typical teenager: seventy-five percent of the time I liked her, the other quarter she was so whiny and "poor poor me" I wanted to shake her. She has normal problems in addition to her supernatural fluctuations to keep her relatable and real: a strained relationship with a disinterested father ("half truths, obvious lies, accusations" is how Kali describes her relationship with her father), and a Mysteriously Missing Mom (a YA trope I'm pretty weary of). I appreciated the balance of problems: chapters didn't get bogged down in teenager drama, but nor was it a vampire/werewolf marathon for 336 pages. Corresponding with the day-to-day changes in Kali, the human and not-human, Kali's problems from both sides represent a different possibility for the character: humanity versus preternatural abilities. On her "other" days, Kali relies more on strength and brute force than finessse and intelligence as does while human. I do think a lot of the benefits of Kali's condition are veeerrryy convenient for the story: autolocation of any of her weapons, even if if has left her hand (it's a "sixth sense" of hers). She also gains immediate knowledge of how to use any weapon she can lay her hands on. I get that Kali is a badass hunter: it's been shown many times many ways, but those two benefits just felt like cheating.

Let's get to some of my favorites: the three dimensional background cast of characters. Not content with cardboard cutouts, Ms. Barnes went above and beyond and crafted a group of real-seeming and -acting people to support - or oppose - Kali. Her characters are truly what shine in this novel: from the not-so-typical-bitchy-Cheerleader Bethany to the tiny, but cheerful "school slut" Skylar, to the mysterious and sexy Zev who just might understand what Kali goes through... these characters were what kept me reading when Kali was whiny. When the chip off Kali's shoulder became too much and I couldn't find any humor in her, I'd just wait for an interaction between Bethany and Skye to get me snickering. I can say I didn't much care for Elliot, one of Skye's five brothers, at ALL: I do not dig the asshole standoffish routine and that boy had it down pat. Happily, this is a LOVE TRIANGLE FREE ya novel. Holy cow. The potential is there for one as Kali has chemistry with Zev and with both Vaughn and Reid (or was that just me, projecting? Reid is HOT) but the author exercised an admirable amount of restraint in that area. I sadly called the reveal of the Big Bad about 150 pages into the novel, but the author does a more than suitable job of trying to conceal and obfuscate the identity.Though the whinyness occasionally got to me, Kali grew on me as her attitude changed, as she became more proactive in rescuing people and herself.

There were fight scenes - often but well done. The wording was crisp and clear, making Kali's fights pop from the page. Not too repetitive with the same action words either, each conflict was different and exciting to to read. What did get repetitive were the details and specialness of Kali's condition. It doesn't need to be hammered into the reader's brain every chapter: they will remember from page to page how Kali is different. It doesn't need to be spelled out over and over. With such a fast-paced chain of events rushing through the pages, the unnecessary reminders about Kali's supreme hunting abilities distracted me and disrupted the flow of the narrative. The tension and urgency of Kali's continual count-down (Seventeen hours and forty-nine minutes.... sixteen hours and twelve minutes...etc) drives both the novel and reader forward very quickly: this is a novel I finished in one sitting, in two and a half hours. I do have to ask, though, are ALL the adults in this world incompetent or seriously evil? Parents, corporations, school nurses, all are shown to be either sinister or uncaring, and that bothered me a fair bit. 

I would like to rate this novel a 4, as I had such fun reading it and there is obviously a lot of imagination present with a great and completely individual hook, with even some sci-fi elements I never saw coming. However, the problems I've mentioned along with other issues I had (a random basilisk fight? Really? After another brutal fight and just pages before another? Feels excessive and unnecessary. And no reason is really given as to why Kali changes only every other day) leave me unable to offer more than a 3.5 out of 5. I wished for a bit more humor to lighten to dark and danger-filled tone: it got a little depressing after a while. The last seventy pages particularly flew by me: engrossing and chock full of action, and more surprises and revelations unforeseen that change the scope of the entire story. The ending was left nicely open for a sequel or follow-up with these familiar characters and I can't hope that there will be a book two.


  1. Preternatural made me think of Ms. Tarabotti as well. :)

  2. I know! I just associate that word with Gail Carriger now. That's some definite "brand" impression!


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