A Spirited and Funny YA Fantasy Debut
The Girls Who Never Was
by Skylar Dorset
Series: Otherworld (Book 1 of 2)
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Length: 304 pp
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“Today is my birthday.”
In Selkie’s family, you don’t celebrate birthdays. You don’t talk about birthdays. And you never, ever reveal your birth date.
The instant Selkie blurts out the truth to Ben in the middle of Boston Common, her whole world shatters.
Because her life has been nothing but a lie—an elaborate enchantment meant to conceal the truth: Selkie is a half-faerie princess.
And her mother wants her dead.
It’s her seventeenth birthday and Selkie Stewart begins to unwrap the answers to her questions about her mysterious mother (who left her on her father’s doorstep) that have consumed her for years. What she discovers makes her life not only more puzzling but more dangerous.
In The Girl Who Never Was, author Skylar Dorset’s debut, we meet Selkie, a likeable girl living in Boston with her two offbeat aunts. Selkie’s voice comes through well, and you’ll sympathize with her from the get-go. And until you are privy to Selkie’s secrets, you’ll wonder who is the crazier, Selkie’s institutionalized father or her aunts who had him put away!
The Boston setting operates as its own character, and it’s clear that Dorset had a blast inventing otherworldly connections and revisions to Boston’s local landmarks and history. She does a fine job of bringing the “Otherworld” into the “Thisworld,” especially by showing us places where the two converge, like the Park Street Subway station. Once the reader is clued into the truth of Selkie’s world, Dorset lets loose and allows her eccentric cast free-rein. I appreciate that the novel never takes itself, its world, or its mythology too seriously. Instead, the tone of book is light and campy, and it’s plain when you are reading that it’s going to a be a lot of fun. You’ll find yourself giggling out loud as you listen to Selkie’s aunts banter and bicker with the other Otherworlders. They’ve all been doing their best to keep Selkie safe, and that has meant keeping the truth from her. So when Selkie starts asking the right questions, they get uncomfortable and dodge responsibility.
Determined to know her history and discover herself, and disgusted with her family and friends essentially lying to her, Selkie takes matters into her own hands. And it’s good to see that come what may, with her true-blue bestie Kelsey, Selkie will never be alone.
Though the romantic element to the story could have been more developed, I found myself buying into it because, ultimately, I cared about Selkie. Albeit, it helps that the author makes nods to this when Selkie calls Ben her “quasi-boyfriend”. Given that the story involves paranormal creatures, particularly faeries, I liked that it was a chaste love story rather than the usual hyper-sexualized paranormal romance. Because of that, the book works for ages 12-and up, rather than the slightly older 14-and up YA crowd.
Overall, while world-building and relationships could benefit from more thorough exploration, and though the plot is somewhat limited by the prophesy/destiny trope, The Girl Who Never Was is an enjoyable debut fantasy. I look forward to reading the next installment!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Spirited and Funny YA Fantasy Debut.
Minor flaws will not prevent readers of The Girl Who Never Was from laughing merrily and smiling their way through the pages.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank NetGalley and Sourcebooks for allowing me access to this title for review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”