Duyvis smoothly transitions between the two main characters’ thoughts and emotions while realistically conveying the individual alienation and terror of two very different people. Rich worldbuilding, convincing nonheteronormative relationships, balanced class issues, and nuanced, ethnically diverse characters add to the novel’s depth. The well-paced action builds toward an unexpected, thrilling conclusion that will leave readers eager for more from this promising new author. Original and compelling; a stunning debut.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Debut novelist Duyvis smoothly integrates elements of diversity and disability into her cast without letting them stand in for deeper characterizations … Numerous plot twists drive the story along, and it’s grounded in worldbuilding that creates a believable, authentic setting. Duyvis makes ingenious use of a fascinating premise.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
While Duyvis’s debut is an exciting take on the fantasy genre, as it alternates between our world and that of the Dunelands, the true strength of the novel is in its positive portrayal of LGBT issues. This becomes most important in establishing the character of Nolan, an adolescent who has experienced most of his adolescence from the perspective of a girl, and in the nuanced portrayal of Amara’s relationships.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
The portrayals are believably complex, avoiding gimmickry or heavy-handed messages in favor of subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege. Framing all this is a brilliantly paced edge-of-your seat adventure, as Amara and Cilla flee from one danger to the next, that’s paired with an intriguing, twist-filled mystery, as Nolan tries to sort out his connection to this other world and his role in it. … [T]his is how you do fantasy in a global world.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
Talented debut author Duyvis keeps tensions high … Duyvis creates a humdinger of an adventure that contains the agony of loyalty, the allure of magic, and, most gratifyingly, the element of surprise.
—The Horn Book Magazine
Debut author Duyvis has written a nice twist on the classic body-snatchers theme and keeps the pace moving smoothly, even when jumping between Nolan’s and Amara’s perspectives … she keeps her focus solidly on the story and character development so that diversity integrates naturally into both Nolan’s and Amara’s experiences … readers who want to be left thinking after a story is done will appreciate this stand-alone title.
[C]ompelling twists and turns … this is an intelligent, satisfying YA novel.
[A]n extremely strong debut, full of the aforementioned complexity of character and worldbuilding … Every aspect of [Duyvis’s] work is nuanced, thoughtful, and three-dimensional … As Lanagan and Hardinge have done, Duyvis seems likely to build as great an audience among adults as she does among teenagers who love good books.
Duyvis adds in issues of race, freedom, mind control, and environmental damage for spice … an intriguing mix, and a very promising first novel.
Otherbound is a complex, ambitious and engaging debut. It’s part portal fantasy, part contemporary YA and a whole lot imaginative. The characters’ arcs are astonishingly awesome. The premise is horrifying. I am most impressed with it. … The author can only be described as an amazingly gifted writer: all of the [book’s elements] are well integrated in the story and the transitions between not only the dual narratives but also two worlds are smoothly done. More than that, characters and their arcs really shine through this novel. Everything about them and their lives is nuanced, thought-provoking and poignant. There are elements here that deal with financial and medical predicaments, class issues, power struggles and the matter of choice and agency.
—The Book Smugglers
It’s serious, thought-provoking, and complex … this is a book that manages to be diverse in about a dozen different ways without ever seeming messagey or as if the authorial voice is intruding on an organic story … Duyvis has a deft hand, light touch, and a fertile imagination — I am very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.
—Someday My Printz Will Come
Otherbound is a web of spells and counterspells, but Corinne Duyvis never loses sight of the bodies, minds and all-too-human emotions that absorb the impact of the magical power-plays. It’s an action-packed tale of passion, possession and hair-raising leaps from world to world. As you read it, remember to keep breathing.
—Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels and The Brides of Rollrock Island
Completely captivating! I was trapped in Nolan and Amara’s worlds as thoroughly as Nolan is trapped in Amara’s. I loved every second of this fascinating, fantastic novel!
—Sarah Beth Durst, author of Vessel and Conjured
Otherbound is a deeply moving exploration of how circumstance and choice shape who we are. Duyvis is not afraid to follow the deeper questions of humanity, even as she delivers a nail-biting plot. I loved every word of this assured, powerful debut.
—Karen Healey, author of Guardian of the Dead, The Shattering, and When We Wake
With every blink of the eye and turn of the page, Duyvis transports us into the minds of two brave characters struggling to survive as their worlds both fall apart around them and weave together in ways they could never expect. A wonderful debut.
—Laura Lam, author of Pantomime and False Hearts
- 11 Great Debut Novels at Kirkus Reviews
- 9 Unforgettable Teen Page Turners at Kirkus Reviews
- 2014 Locus Recommended Reading List
- LA Times Summer Books Preview
- Seasonal Reading for Young Adults at The Boston Globe
- 10 Titles You Should Add To Your Summer Reading List at xoJane
- YA Movers & Shakers at Goodreads
- PW Picks: Books of the Week at Publishers Weekly
For more about Otherbound, check out the articles and interviews I’ve done over the years.
• Plot Twister:
Interview with Jessica Meats (May 25, 2016)
• Disability in Kidlit:
Interview with Ada Hoffmann and Jessica Walton (March 24, 2016)
• Interview with The Gay YA (June 22, 2015)
• Interview with Easter Seals Thrive (January 26, 2015)
• Otherbound Book Presentation (August 30, 2014)
An 18-minute video of my Otherbound launch at the American Book Center in Amsterdam; contains journalist Julie Philips’s introduction of Otherbound, my reading of part of the first chapter, and a few questions of the interview.
(click to show video here)
• Interview with the Skiffy and Fanty Show (podcast) (August 6, 2014)
• YA Interrobang (interview):
Royal Runaways and Taking Risks (July 13, 2014)
• Interview with Jessica Spotswood (June 19, 2014)
• Interview with xoJane (June 18, 2014)
• Interview with A Fantastical Librarian (June 17, 2014)
• Interview with Meg at Adrift on Vulcan (June 17, 2014)
• Interview with The Fearless Fifteeners (June 17, 2014)
• Diversity in YA:
Secondary Worlds, Choices, and Otherbound (June 16, 2014)
• YA Misfits:
Band Geek Thursday–the Otherbound playlist (June 12, 2014)
• Interview with Bisexual Books (June 3, 2014)
• Interview with OneFourKidlit (January 7, 2013)
• Interview with QueryTracker (October 14, 2012)
You may download the first chapter in PDF format or read it below.
In the world of the Dunelands, Amara was sleeping.
Striding through the Walgreens aisles, Nolan wished he could do the same—just curl up in bed, shut his eyes, see nothing but the insides of his eyelids.
No: see nothing but the insides of Amara’s eyelids. He hadn’t seen his own in years.
If he hurried, he could buy the notebooks and get home before Amara woke up. He stopped by the office supplies, adjusted his backpack, and hunted the shelves for the right kind: hard-backed, easy to stack, and with thick enough paper that his ink wouldn’t bleed through when his pen paused at the same spot too long.
“Can I help you find anything?” A perky salesclerk appeared to his right.
Nolan offered a smile. Not quite his teacher-smile, but close—he didn’t visit stores often enough to have a sales- clerk-smile. All these fluorescent lights and shoppers made him uneasy. If something happened in Amara’s world, he had nowhere here to hide. At least his school had bathrooms. Sometimes he even got to use a teacher’s office. When the disabled kid said he felt a seizure coming, teachers listened, if only out of fear that Dad would threaten to sue them again.
“No, thank you.” Nolan drew back from the salesclerk. Another smile. He fingered the straps of his backpack. “I’m doing fine. But thank you.”
He turned back to the notebooks. Amara would give everything she owned for a single one of these. He ignored that thought—with Amara asleep, this was the one time of day he could focus on his own world. Once she woke, or when she started dreaming, all his inner peace and quiet would fade.
Maybe he should pick up some pens, as well. He couldn’t risk running out of ink.
The salesclerk crouched to rearrange some mixed-up kids’ sketchbooks. Nolan zeroed in on the shelves, on the recent pop cover blaring from the store’s speakers. Easier said than done. The music cut out every time he blinked, replaced with Amara’s slow breaths and the quiet rustling of sleepers in her inn room.
There. They’d moved his brand of notebooks to another spot. Nolan raised his—
—it was just a snatch of a voice. Male. At first, Nolan thought it was another shopper, maybe the radio.
It wasn’t. Amara had woken up. Nolan turned away from the salesclerk. He needed to shut his eyes without the clerk worrying, get a second’s glimpse of Amara’s world to see what was happening. The fluorescent glow of the Walgreens faded into nothing—
“—this?” It was Jorn’s voice, as Nolan knew it would be. Long fingers dug into Amara’s wrist. They were cold to her sleep-warm skin, and strong, squeezing too tightly.
Jorn yanked her out of the alcove bed. Her blanket slid off, caught by the hatch, and Amara stumbled on all fours onto the inn floor. Splinters stabbed her knees and feet.
Jorn shoved beige squares of paper at Amara. Scratches of ink covered every inch, forming slashes and loops and dots Amara was learning to recognize as letters. “I know these are yours,” Jorn growled. “You’re learning to write. What do you think you need that for?”
Amara didn’t answer. Even when she could, when he wasn’t dragging her by the arm like this, she never answered. Jorn would only get worse. She scrambled for balance, but her every muscle held stiff from fear and sleep.
Through the panic, Nolan tried to yank Amara’s arm free. It didn’t respond. Never did. He only got to watch and feel.
Cilla, Amara was thinking, maybe Cilla can stop him, she could tell him that teaching me to write was her idea, that it wasn’t just me—but Jorn wouldn’t care. He couldn’t punish Cilla. He could punish Amara—
His eyes flew open at the feel of the salesclerk’s hand on his back. Her perfume wafted into his nose, sharp and Jélisse fruity—no, the Jélisse people were from Amara’s world, not here. The clerk’s perfume was just plain fruit. End of story.
This world: perfume and office supplies, the inconstant whir of the AC. Forget the Dunelands. Forget the splintery wood of the inn floors, the musty smell of Amara’s mattress, the salt coming in from the dunes.
He must’ve been in Amara’s head for longer than a second. At least he’d stayed upright, though he’d slouched against the store’s racks and knocked a pack of notebooks to the floor.
“Are you all right?” The clerk squinted. Caked makeup around her eyes wrinkled into crow’s-feet. “You’re Nolan, aren’t you? Nolan Santiago? Should I call Dr. Campbell?”
“No. I think I’m all right.” He forced a smile. She not only knew his name, but his doctor’s, too? Small-town gossip would be the death of him. “Sorry for dropping those.”
“No problem at all!”
Nolan took a pack of pens from the rack, then bent to help pick up the fallen notebooks. His eyes started to ache, but he couldn’t allow himself to blink. He knew what Amara was facing; blinking meant he would have to face it, too. He needed to hide. “Could you point me to a bathroom?”
He couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. They burned. He blinked, and for that fraction of a second Amara sucked him in—flames crackled in the room’s fire pit, and Amara made a sound that barely escaped her lips—then Nolan was back. He blinked a couple more times, too rapidly to get anything but flashes of heat and fear. The fire was getting closer.
Something had happened to Jorn. Nolan hadn’t seen him this outraged in years. He’d hit Amara often enough, and writing and reading were off-limits for servants like her—but this? No.
Nolan held the plastic-wrapped notebooks so firmly they shook. The salesclerk was staring at him. If she’d answered his bathroom question, he’d missed it. “I’ll get your mother,” she said.
His mother? How would she find his mother? But the clerk was gone before he could respond, and Nolan gritted his teeth, spinning around. Finding a bathroom would take too long. He’d find a place to hide in the parking lot, instead. He couldn’t break down in the store. Couldn’t make a scene.
Another blink. Nolan went from stalking through the aisles to—dragged along, legs tangled and kicking—and when his eyes opened and he snapped back to his own world, he stumbled. His prosthetic foot slid out from under him before he could get a grip. Nolan caught himself on the nearest rack, sending metal rattling against metal.
“Nolan?” Mom’s voice. He stiffened. There she stood, short and thin, wearing an ill-fitting Walgreens uniform and a name tag that proclaimed her María.
Despite everything, that caught Nolan’s eye. Mom was a child-care professional. She had training, certificates, her own business. What was she doing here?
“Are you OK?” Mom asked.
“I need a—a space.” Nolan tried a Mom-smile and failed.
“Is he going to have a seizure?” The salesclerk stood behind Mom, her eyes as wide as Nolan’s own probably were but for entirely different reasons. She dug around in her pockets for her cell. “I’ll call 911!”
“No,” Mom bit out. “They can’t help. Is the back room free?”
The next time Nolan blinked, flames licked at Amara’s hands. He muffled a scream. He found himself bent over, the notebooks in his hands creasing. Let me go, he thought at Amara, though she didn’t hear him and never would. This was a one-way street. She didn’t know Nolan existed, let alone what her magic did to him. Please. Stop pulling me in. I don’t want to feel this.
He wanted to tune her out. Even with his eyelids spread wide, the aftertaste of her pain clung to his hands, and more than anything, he wanted to tune her out. On their own, the images he got through blinking were chaos, like switching between TV channels and only catching a half word here, a bright shape there—enough to wreak havoc on his concentration but nothing more. Get enough of them, though, and he had two movies playing alongside each other and no way of pressing pause.
A group of curious shoppers watched from a distance. Not that many, given that it was a Sunday morning, but enough to make him wish for the parking lot, despite the risk. He’d lost one foot already. If Amara made him stumble onto the road, who knew what’d come next? He should’ve stayed home. He should’ve asked Mom or Dad to pick up the notebooks while getting groceries. Served him right for thinking he could handle anything on his own.
Mom wrapped her arm around his shoulders and guided him to the back room, where he slammed his ass to the floor and pressed himself against a wall. He managed a tight nod in thanks as Mom clicked on a table fan, which whirred and stuttered into action. She pushed aside chairs and boxes, anything he might hurt himself on. Standard seizure procedure. Even though there was nothing standard about his seizures.
Nolan managed to open the zipper of his backpack, then grabbed his current notebook and the pen clipped to its cover. He should write down what he saw. Writing always helped.
“I’m here, all right?” Mom said, in Spanish now, her voice soothing. “I’m taking an early lunch break. We’ll go home the moment you can. I’m right here.”
Every time he blinked: the sear of pain, the smell of burning flesh. Already, sweat was beading on his forehead. The pain lingered after he opened his eyes, his brain still shouting panicked messages of fire! fire! fire! before catching up. Nolan’s hands were intact, Nolan’s world safe.
Until he blinked again.
He couldn’t hold on to the pen. His hands squeezed to his chest until they were all that remained.
For everything from information about the cover design to fanart, check out the dedicated page for Otherbound-related art.
If you need warnings about potentially triggering or otherwise upsetting content before reading (or choosing whether to read) Otherbound, I’ve listed the ones I can think of below. Includes mild spoilers.
- a lot of violence and abused, described in more detail below; there is no sexual abuse or threats of that nature
- alcohol use (very early on) leading to physical abuse
- violent on-page death, not described graphically
- graphic descriptions of instantly healed physical abuse and injuries—including being burned, drowned, and cut
- brief flashbacks to abuse of young children
- threat of physical violence against a young teenager
- a lot of blood, and occasional brief gore
- medication overdose, self-harm, and attempted suicide (all for supernatural plot reasons rather than mental health reasons)
- protagonist restrained with rope
- fade-to-black consensual sex between minors
- supernatural bodily possession and resulting lack of bodily autonomy and unwilling voyeurism
- slavery (unrelated to ethnicity) and resulting significant power imbalance
- food descriptions
- mentions of insects and spiders
- mentions of natural disasters; one scene takes place on a boat during a heavy storm