Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
Amara is never alone – but she doesn’t know it until Nolan finally manages to push his way into controlling her body.
Nolan has always lived in two worlds; his own, struggling to focus on his school work and his family, and Amara’s, seeing flashes of her life as he blinks through his own.
When they finally realize they’re truly connected, both of their worlds are transformed by political intrigue and the race to keep Princess Cilla alive.
Romance Score: Good Effort
Three relationships develop throughout the story. Amara and her fellow servant/slave Maart is the most established. It’s obvious there is true affection and love, but I do sort of wonder if it’s a relationship and love borne out of the dire and lonely circumstances that the two found themselves in. Amara and…the person from the end is a little surprising and there are hints of it throughout the book, but it’s interesting to see how it plays out once the politics are out of the way because of the previous power dynamics. Nolan and his flirtation are very cute and show that Nolan is finally fighting for his own world alongside Amara’s.
Feminist Score: Between Good Effort and A+ Success
Amara and Cilla are doing what they must to survive. If that isn’t the feminist story right there, what is. They fight for what they believe in and for each other. It’s interesting that Cilla doesn’t see her privilege and that Amara must maneuver through the power imbalance to make things work. I see a lot of echoes of the troubles in the feminist movement (white feminism vs inclusive feminism) here, although the skin colors don’t correlate (also, echoes of pretty much any system that privileges people in our world). I liked that all the women in this story are whole characters – even when you only get small bits of their lives (like the Captain’s) you still see them as more than just an empty vessel to move the plot.
I don’t give full points because I do feel like it’s tough when a male character is forcing his way into a woman character’s head and controlling her body – while I know that Nolan wasn’t necessarily doing it on purpose (all the time), it still feels like a kind of mental rape in some sense.
Diversity Score: A+ Success
There is a lot of ground covered in this book. Nolan is suffering from what looks like epilepsy in our world and Cilla has curse-created hemophilia. Nolan is missing a foot and uses a prosthetic; he is also probably depressed since he can’t fully function in any world, but he also can’t leave either behind. I do find it interesting when what is considered a disability in our world has a magical explanation – since we find that Nolan has never had epilepsy, that’s just the our-world diagnosis for a magical malady, I think it somewhat avoids the “magical cure.” BUT, it’s a difficult thing to maneuver.
Nolan is of Mexican-descent. His family speaks Spanish or Nahuatl at home and when they cook a “real” meal he has to call Grandma Pérez for instructions. Plus, his family is financially struggling, something you don’t often see in YA and underscoring the deep problems with healthcare and health-related expenses in our world.
Princess Cilla is dark skinned and there is a wide variety of skin colors in other characters in Amara’s world. As we move through the story, we learn that Amara is bisexual (#ownvoices story) and find what looks like a happy ending with someone. All in all, there is a lot here that gets pulled into the story while always feeling like it has a purpose to the characters and plot.
Awesome Factor: Good Effort
I really liked the premise of the book and the story. I thought it was an interesting idea and I love parallel universe/magic worlds! I thought the characters and their stories were intriguing and I was pulled in. I loved seeing such a diverse group of characters going along without that being key to the story.
There was a lot of build up to the climax of the story – action happened at the very end and, while it was all really good, it felt like everything happened really quickly. I also feel that some of the things lacked explanation: what exactly pulled the travelers into Amara’s world? why was Nolan only able to “watch” for so long? what made him weak when the other travelers were strong and able to control their “hosts”? I want to know more about the mechanisms!
Amara – She’s resourceful and dedicated to what she believes is right and wrong. I appreciated her desire to escape servitude coupled with her understanding of the difficult blurring of friendship and servant/master relationships.
“Amara had chosen to love the Maart of yesterday and today. She couldn’t look beyond that…Amara knew he’d already chosen every version of her.”
The idea of this kind of love = swoon.
Is this worth a book hangover?
This is definitely a more character driven story. The world is built on small details with little things pulled in to add to it – like not saying someone’s name after they die – that help underscore the differences between Nolan and Amara’s worlds. The action comes close to the end and, while it’s not as big a climax as you might expect for the length, it’s still good.
Fun Author Fact
Duyvis is one of the co-runners of Disability in KidLit, a site we absolutely recommend. She is also autistic and bisexual and champions the #ownvoices cause in books.
Read These Next
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for another full cast of folks that represent the real world, Adaptation by Malinda Lo for a more sci-fi thriller in our world, or The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie for more fantasy with pirates, sea monsters, and lady-lady action.
Post Author: Jess
Jess loves SFF – old and new school – and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.