Book Review: Every Other Day

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Review: Every Other Day / Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes / Publisher: Quercus / Release Date: Out Now

As if everyday teenage angst wasn’t enough of a problem, Kali D’Angelo hunts demons, hellhounds, and other ‘preternatural’ creatures that populate the world of Every Other Day. Her blood is poison to these monsters, while any wounds they inflict on her heal extremely quickly.

Ok, so far so Buffy, but here’s the twist. Kali is only an invincible slayer one day in every two. The other twenty four hours, she’s normal and entirely vulnerable. She goes to school, doesn’t get along with her father, and finds that a girl at high school has been marked for death. Can Kali save her?

You’ll have to read Every Other Day to find out, as I’m giving nothing away. What I will say is that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written a novel that flies from one chapter to the next, is filled with enough twists and turns to satisfy the young adults that it’s clearly aimed at, as well as the more older reader.

We’re introduced to Kali on one of her slayer nights, showing how tough she is. It’s Kali herself who narrates the novel and, fittingly enough, it often feels like there are two voices speaking. Both are always keeping track of time; how long left as a slayer of the vile and beastly, how long remains as a normal teenager. There’s a sense of urgency running throughout the novel, a clock forever ticking in the background – even the cover is an hourglass, although filled with blood – and it’s this that gives Every Other Day its unrelenting pace.

Did I mention blood? There’s gore aplenty here, from flying limbs to corpses riddled with bullets, yet it’s testament to Barnes’s writing that the real wince-inducing moment involves an injury to a hand. It’s not a book for the squeamish, by any means, but deep at its heart is the tale of a girl who has to learn to fit in and make friends in order to survive. This is a challenge Kali has never had to undertake before, one that most of us can identify with.

It’s this that makes the supporting characters of Every Other Day play much more important roles than quirky sidekicks. Sure, there’s the school stud, the slut, the computer boffin, the uppity rich girl cheerleader, but all are much more than their types. Kali needs them, and the book does too; it wouldn’t be half as interesting if Kali just went around slaying throughout, in a ‘monster of the chapter’ format.

That’s not to say these creatures aren’t interesting; there’s a particularly impressive dragon that’s as unique as anything I’ve read for a long time and, while zombies do turn up, there’s something credibly different about them. There are others, of course, but to reveal them would be to suggest what lurks within the plot. For all the extraordinary creatures that populate this world, they blend in seamlessly; full credit must go to the author for making the unreal so believable.

It’s a shame, then, that some aspects of the plot are slightly convenient. While many of the twists are genuine yet believable surprises, there are a couple that feel wedged in for impact, without any prior foreshadowing. Nevertheless, it’s a steady and consistent read, one that is after all aimed at readers two decades (dare I say a generation?) younger than I am.

Every Other Day is a gripping read from start to finish. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created an exciting heroine, one who learns much about herself over the course of the pages, co-existing with other interesting characters. It has a strong central message at its heart, wrapped around a gruesome and gory plot. If an old cynic like me can find it exciting – and be pleasantly surprised that it’s not yet another paranormal romance where the heroine falls for a moody vampire – then the audience it’s aimed at will surely enjoy this book, just as I did.

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