C.G. Drews's Reviews > The Otherlife

The Otherlife by Julia  Gray
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really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, magical-fantasy, read-2017, ya-male-narrators, young-adult

I think my mind BROKE with the bizarreness of this novel, but yet I absolutely loved it. It's also so underrated??? I've never heard anyone talk about it until one of my friends recommended it because I loved Bone Gap. BLESS THIS RECOMMENDATION. This book is amazing. It's good but not in a nice way. It features a lot of horrible events from horrible characters and it shows a really dark side to parents who drive their kids towards ambition so so hard that they destroy them. It's also very much about undiagnosed mental illness and people making mistake after mistake until it destroys them.

It's also magical realism. Because the boys are really into Norse gods, and Ben "sees" them. Or else, like, he's been having a mental breakdown since he was a child. And I kind of like that aspect?? Perhaps he's seeing a magical world. Perhaps it's not real and he's hallucinating. PERHAPS PERHAPS PERHAPS. Either way the Norse mythology and the magical aspects were woven in perfectly.

Also note: DON'T READ THE BLURB!! THE BLURB FOR THIS BOOK SPOILS THE WHOLE THING!! I hate when books do that. Like, mate, can you not.

The story is told in past and present via Ben and Hobie. The present is Ben, who's facing exams and who's life is falling apart from a secret drug addiction, while he's being whispered to by the Norse gods that someone is dying. You know something HORRIBLE happened in his past but he's somewhat suppressed it and he's somewhat killing himself with the drugs. The the past is via Hobie, when the boys were 12. Hobie is like The Brat Of Brattiest Brats™ and I hated him but at the same time loved how complexly he was written. His storyline is leading up to the Big Horrible Event and since he's not in Ben's storyline in the future...you gotta wonder what happened.


It has addictiveness and enthrallingness (shh it's a word) and mystery to a perfect A+

Also the school aspect was just NUTS. I'm sorry. But IS ENGLAND CRAZY WITH WHAT THEY PUT THEIR KIDS THROUGH FOR SCHOOL???? I think this was a slightly amplified version because both Hobie/Ben were being severely driven to get these scholarships. But like, they legit had no life except: school. And it was driving them mad and their parents just kept pushing and pushing. Ben's mother was such a driven psycho. And Hobie's little sister basically got an eating disorder...she would've been like nine or ten years old. It was so sad. The whole book was so sad. Like just how people can be pushed to breaking. The entire story is full of people pushed to breaking until they break AND IT WAS REALLY EMOTIONAL. I had a whole emotion. Possibly two.

And I freaking loved the characters. Ben was a precious cinnamon roll. Like 50% a very quiet serious boy who's probably a genius, loves Metallica, says basically nothing, and is starved for love. And then he's 50% this kid who'll tattoo himself at 12 years old because he sees Norse gods and can speak old Norse and they're the only thing keeping him afloat. Can I like just adopt the poor darling precious cinnamon cupcake now. My heart broke for him. 3

Hobie is awful. But it was also super interesting seeing his perspective?? Like he's a bully and he's spoiled and he literally abuses and bullies his little sister into having an eating disorder. But you can see he's also falling apart and the cruelness is how he copes. So I hated him, but seeing from his perspective was so interesting and I LOVED READING ABOUT BOTH THE BOYS.

I do say I hate the "romance" aspect though?? Like it's SO VAGUE and I just kind of think that Hobie was gay and had a crush on Ben, but obviously he'd never admit that to himself. But like in Ben's chapters there's this random kiss with a girl that DOES NOT FIT AT ALL and it was ughhhhhh. That mandatory "oh wait this is YA we gotta have a kiss" when it just didn't need to be there. Ben wasn't in love with the girl he kissed either. So like. Wut even. So it hints at LGBT+ romance, but never properly explores it or develops it. I'd almost say it has "no romance" because it really doesn't. Just a frikkin weird kiss. Please don't. The boys were the ship dangit.


(I really like tragic and mind twisty books. Books about mental health and coping and falling apart and learning to breathe again are just my favourite.)

It does get seriously weird at the end though. Confused? Me? Hhahahah HAHAH HAHAHAH. Okay fine, yes. I was so confused. I also don't really know what the conclusion of the whole thing was? So I loved it and it'd be like 4.5 stars but I won't deny that (a) I wanted more closure for Ben's storyline, and (b) I wanted more explanation for what Hobie did, and (c) I need my hEART repaired because it's in a puddle on the floor thanks.

ALL IN ALL: this was a spectacularly emotional and heart-smashing book that I love to pieces. The magic plus the mental health aspects plus the friendship plus the sheer messed up level of everything...it was so well written. It kept me turning pages and freaking out slightly for these children. And also being really glad I was never pushed to pieces to achieve academically like these kids??? Holy kelp they were only TWELVE. They never even got to play because STUDIES.

Also there's tons of food and the book made me hungry. And broke my heart with feels. Like how much more can I take of this, sheesh.

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Reading Progress

March 6, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
March 6, 2017 – Shelved
March 27, 2017 – Started Reading
March 27, 2017 –
page 86
20.67% "Are British kids seriously required to do this much school work???? Like the standard is so high for the twelve year olds. Why don't you know 9 languages and advanced math yet, child, while you spend 14 hours a day revising.
March 28, 2017 –
page 264
63.46% "This book has a tragic case of: the blurb spoils the entire freaking book. Why. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT. Where is the blurb writer so I might gently lower them into the Nile with the crocodiles."
March 28, 2017 – Shelved as: contemporary
March 28, 2017 – Shelved as: magical-fantasy
March 28, 2017 – Shelved as: read-2017
March 28, 2017 – Shelved as: ya-male-narrators
March 28, 2017 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 28, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by I'mogén (new) - added it

I'mogén Okay! Not gonna read the blurb just gonna add it straight to my tbr xD

C.G. Drews Excellent life decision. ;)

message 3: by Daisy (new)

Daisy Paquet I read the opening sentence, and for some reason thought of Moana?


Magnus // Well-Read Rebel This will be my next pic up at the library for sure!

C.G. Drews @Syndey: Ahhhh I'm so so glad! It's so underrated omg.

Magnus // Well-Read Rebel @Cait (Paper Fury): I'll make sure to write a review for it on my blog! You might see it, since you've commented on some of my posts before lol.

message 7: by Samuel (new)

Samuel Shuttleworth I accidentally read the blurb, looks good though

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