Title: Every Other Day I Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes I Publisher: Egmont
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offers the following synopsis for Every Other Day:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be something else every other day? Kali D'Angelo is just that; an "Other," or so she calls herself, invincible one day and human the next. When Kali comes across a student who has an ouroboros mark, giving her moments to live; she ventures into a dangerous world where few survive the things that go bump in the night.
Plot Summary: Kali D'Angelo has been abandoned by her mother and lives with her disinterested and absent minded father. She has just transferred to a new high school where she is doing her best to keep a low profile. She prefers to be inconspicuous because she is not like other kids. Sometimes she is normal, but every other day she transforms into a feral and obsessed hunting machine. When she is this other creature, she is nearly invincible and all she can think about is killing preternatural creatures of the demonic variety.
The story explains that when Charles Darwin made his discoveries regarding evolution, he also discovered triple helix creatures that humans refer to as zombies, hell hounds, basilisks, chupacabras and the like. Since Darwin's discoveries, scientists have been studying and cataloging the preternatural beings. Kali's father is one of those scientists and he works for a university where he teaches students the science behind preternatural creatures.
Kali befriends a girl named Skylar. Skylar describes herself as the school slut and sort-of psychic. Together Kali and Skylar discover that Bethany (cheerleader, diva and the daughter if a man who works with Kali's father) has the mark of an ouroboros. This is a symbol of a snake eating its own tail and it indicates that Bethany is infected with a chupacabra (literally – goat sucker), which is demonic in nature and a variant of vampires. The chupacabra gets into the blood stream of its victim, drains her of her blood and memories and kills her. There is no cure once the mark of the ouroboros shows itself on the victim.
When Kali sees the mark of the ouroboros on Bethany, she figures that she might be able to lure it into her own blood stream and kill it because she is not wholly human. The big risk is that she's currently human and won't change into her feral other-self for several more hours. With this in mind, she goes ahead with her plan. She is immediately infected and begins hearing voices in her head. The voices are of someone named Zev who explains that he is a creature like Kali. He too is possessed by a chupacabra and the chupacabra makes him strong but needs to be fed blood. The chupacabra also allows him to communicate with Kali. The chupacabra that is in him is the mate to the chupacabra in her and this means that Kali and Zev are soul mates.
Zev is being held hostage at a "big bad biochemical conglomerate" that is doing research experiments on him and the remaining story is about freeing him from his captors. During these adventures, Kali learns that she was originally conceived as a human child but her father and mother who were never married spliced vampire DNA into Kali in utero and this made her half human/half vampire. Kali blocked out most of her early memories, but upon seeing her mother again while saving Bethany and Skylar from a hoard of genetically altered zombies, she begins to remember many details of her deeply disturbing life. Kali's father left her mother when she was a baby because he discovered Kali's mother teaching Kali how to use a loaded gun. Per the story, one trait that vampires have is an innate ability to use weapons of all kinds, and Kali's mother was testing Kali to see if she showed any aptitude for using a gun.
After a great deal of bloodshed and betrayal in which Skylar is blown to pieces by one of the "big bad biochemical conglomerate" employees and in which Kali then kills said employee and drinks his blood, the bad guys lose. Kali graduates. Zev returns with Skylar's FBI agent brother and they recruit Kali into a secret order that hunts even more bad guys. Everyone but Skylar lives happily ever after.
Rating: This young adult book has earned a Mature Content rating for aberrant behaviors, extreme dystopia and horror, occult as well as mild language issues and socially inappropriate humor. It also receives three stars for story development.
Review : I give this book three stars because around 60% of the way through the book, the reader will begin to notice dialog redundancies and literary poly-fill.As I have been doing for the last several weeks, let me highlight the focus of this series. I want to start by thanking IR for allowing this diversion from our typical political fare. Although, this is a politically charged topic, it may not interest people with no school aged children, so I appreciate the opportunity to make this point. The books that I am reviewing are recommended by the American Library Association for children between the ages of 12 to 18. Per the taxpayer funded ALA, they meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens.
For this book, I will be detouring from my usual political arguments into matters of faith. This won't be easy because few people have the exact same views on faith and I'm bound to annoy someone, but anyone who follows my articles knows that I believe wholeheartedly that politics and religion are the same thing, so here goes.
I'll begin with a discussion of the vampire genre. Modern vampire lore can be traced to Eastern European and Asian cultures and is primarily Christian in the legends that we recognize. Bram Stoker's Dracula is probably the most influential interpretation of this mythology. It is this work of fiction that gives us our modern understanding of the vampire tradition in Western societies.
The story of Dracula was never meant to be for children. It is very adult in its discussions on spirituality and mortality. It requires a working understanding of the immortal soul in order for the reader to appreciate the dangers and conflicts that the protagonists experience. The book is best considered by a reader that has a well formed conscience in order to appreciate Bram Stoker's opinions and ultimate conclusions. One very important theme that Stoker discusses throughout the book is that evil is powerful, seductive, attractive. It can take hold of the imagination and settle into the psyche when we let our guards down. To lose one's soul to an evil like Dracula is a peril that one would not wish on his worst enemy. Man versus the supernatural, this is a timeless theme.
The modernization of the vampire genre speaks to how prescient Bram Stoker was on this point. Every Other Day is a contemporary example of what happens when we are illiterate in our own Christian traditions. I'd much rather be complaining about the author's surreal obsession with feminine hygiene products or pointing out a very progressive and disturbing depiction of a family unit which is damaged beyond repair. These problems alone would be enough to keep the book out of my kids' hands. I could write a doctoral thesis on the nihilism we experience through the author's lust for violent imagery. There are a hundred reasons why this book is in no way appropriate reading for anyone under the age of seventeen. The ALA's complete lack of responsibility for the mental, spiritual and social welfare of children is where I will focus this article.
There are some basic questions that we must consider before we can get down to the final critique of this particular book:
- Are humans made up of a living body and an immortal soul?
- Does God exist and is there an afterlife?
- Is there such a thing as a preternatural evil that humans must take care to reject?
You see, I would not recommend this book for my own kids, but I cannot tell you to what to believe or what to encourage your children to believe. If you trust that humans have souls, that there's a God and a Heaven and that Heaven can be lost to us by accepting evil into our hearts, then this book is extremely troubling because its message is that evil makes you potent, indestructible and might even lead you to the love of your life as long as you don't mind him taking control of your brain and body and occasionally encouraging you to commit acts of cannibalism.
Now let's do a quick refresher on the plot.
We have a main character that has been physically violated and therefore betrayed by her parents who thought it would be okay to manipulate her genetic makeup by splicing vampire DNA into her own shortly after her conception.
We have a main character that begins to exhibit her vampire traits after she has reached sexual maturity but doesn't know what she is or why she feels the overwhelming power to kill zombies every other day because no one ever bothered to mention that she's only part human.
We have a main character that sees an acquaintance (Bethany) marked with an ouroboros which is a sign that her acquaintance is possessed by a chupacabra and will be dead by the end of the day. The main character describes the chupacabra as demonic in nature but she invites the demon to take control of her own body instead of Bethany's.
We have a main character that finds herself strengthened by the demon. She then makes contact with a different preternatural being (Zev) that she has never met but feels a strong attraction to. Zev can take control of her thoughts and sometimes her movements. The main character comes to welcome and prefer the possession of her mind, body and soul even though she now thirsts for human blood.
Every Other Day is a drastic departure from classic gothic horror. In the beginning, the reader will overlook Kali's instinct to hunt demons because it is a drive that she doesn't understand and cannot control. What becomes more difficult to reason through – especially for a child between the ages of 12 to 18 and I would suggest that this book is written at around a seventh grade level - is that Kali moves beyond her natural tendencies in order to embrace a demonic possession. The reader is steered to the conclusion that this is the best way for Kali to accentuate and improve her natural instincts. There is no consequence for her acceptance of demonic possession other that her drive to commit acts of cannibalism.
There is no condemnation by the author regarding Kali's choice. The author represents it as merely one of many choices that Kali could have made, and it would appear that any one of those options would have been equally valid. This is moral relativism as a worst case scenario.
Of course, the biggest problem is that America has become so spiritually illiterate in our quest for an atheistic secularism that most people don't recognize that there's anything wrong with recommending this book to children. So we will sit back and shrug and tell ourselves that it is only a story when we ought to realize that the story is essentially a how to manual for playing with matches.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.