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The Other Ones
Jean Thesman
Viking Books, 181 pages

Kamil Vojnar
The Other Ones
Jean Thesman
Jean Thesman has written several award-winning novels for young adults. She lives in Washington State.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Bridget Raynes has never been like other girls. She can read minds, move objects just by thinking about them, talk to birds and animals. She sees earth- and tree-spirits, and hears the stories the wind tells. For as long as she can remember, she has tried to suppress these talents, afraid of being different, wanting to fit in.

The behaviour of some of the people in her life seems to reinforce the wisdom of this decision: her parents, dissatisfied and selfish, who don't much care what Bridget does as long as she doesn't make trouble for them; the school bullies, who persecute anyone who's talented or a little odd. But others urge her in a different direction, including her aunt Cait, who has the same powers Bridget has, and a bad-tempered shape-shifting creature called xiii (pronounced shhh), who claims to be Bridget's guardian.

Then Bridget's friend Jordan begins acting strangely, and a mysterious girl called Althea Peale comes to town. Bridget realizes that both Jordan and Althea need help, and only she has the power to give it to them. Bridget is faced with a choice -- either to accept the talents she has rejected all her life, or to turn away from them forever.

The Other Ones is a delicate coming-of-age story, smoothly written and rich in atmospheric detail. Bridget's struggle with her difference, and the conflict between her need to fit in and the magical world whose call she can't quite force herself to ignore, are well-rendered, and provoke thought about the destructive social forces that push young people toward conformity. The book ventures deep into New Age territory, with its wiccans and familiars and earth-magic, but Thesman manages to avoid New Age silliness, investing her witches with dignity and strength, and making their powers properly mysterious. And the caustic voice of xiii, who specializes in puncturing Bridget's illusions and needling her out of self-pity, puts everything in perspective.

Some elements aren't as convincing as others -- the indifference of Bridget's parents to her persecution at school, for instance, doesn't ring true in this abuse-conscious day and age, nor does the exaggerated nastiness of the teacher who eggs on the bullies. But if these things aren't quite believable to an adult reader, they will certainly resonate with any teen who has ever felt ignored or devalued by the grownups around her. And for those who, like Bridget, are struggling with the hardship of being different in a world that prizes sameness, The Other Ones offers a meaningful message about the importance of embracing what's special in yourself.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.

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