Othergirl, by Nicole Burstein, is a superhero book. Superheroes – known as Vigils – are real, and can fly, or shoot flames out of their hands, or have superstrength, or any of the other usual comic-book powers. So far so conventional. For most people, the Vigils don’t have much of an effect of their daily lives, beyond watching YouTube clips of their latest exploits, collecting action figures, or arguing in the playground over who your favourite hero is.
For Louise, it’s different. She should be a normal schoolgirl, but for one thing – her best friend, Erica, is a superhero. What do you do when your best friend is a superhero? Well, you help make her costume, you patch it up when she uses her flame powers to burn through her own elbows, you help her choose a superhero name, and you help train her to get used to her powers before she’s called up to work with the rest of the Vigils. Oh, and you do her homework for her. Superheroes don’t have time for homework.
Turns out you also do all the usual things that best friends do. Argue about boys. Help them deal with parental drama. And keep their secrets.
The relationship of Louise and Erica in Othergirl is the heart of the book, and the story lives or dies by the success of this depiction – fortunately, they’re great, credible characters, and the juxtaposition of the mundane with the superpowered works perfectly. Of course Louise and Erica fall out over a boy! Best friends do that all the time. But it doesn’t normally end up with a showdown with a group of supervillains in an underground superhero base.
The backstory has just enough detail without bogging the reader down in superhero origin technobabble (and on a related note, I would like a prequel featuring The Amazing Clara, please).
Louise is the narrator of the book, and it also chronicles her growth from second fiddle to the hero of her own story. Because not everyone has superpowers, but that doesn’t stop you being a hero.
Fast-paced, engaging, and very satisfying.