Friday 8 July 2011

OTOLI by Bryony Allen: Review, Interview & Giveaway

For Review: Bryony Allen
Published: April 2011

From Goodreads:OTOLI – Have you been there?

Social outcast ALICE TURNER went there to escape the constant bullying from the Populars. She is befriended by Jenny; an enigmatic waitress who seems to be stuck in the past.

As the Populars begin to reap the wrath of a faithful friend, suspicions build in Alice’s mind. Why does Jenny keep mementoes that are four years old? And why does Alice feel that she is to blame for the downfall of her enemies?

But friendship is a two-way deal as Alice soon discovers. After breaking her promise to Jenny, she faces a far worse foe than before. Alice is forced to make choices on which her future and that of others will depend; whether or not she knows it. Moreover, she will have to find courage to escape the ultimate bully – her best friend.

I found myself quite surprised by this book. It was a bit darker than I was expecting but in a really good way. And I loved the concept - how it makes you think about bullying and the affect it really has.

The book shows multiple points of view but mainly focuses on Alice, the bullying she faces on a daily basis and her friendship with Jenny.  We also learn about Kieran and his friendship with Jenny, as well as learning about Jenny's past, and the reason behind her actions.

I thought the author did a great job with the characterisation.  Out of all the characters I liked Alice the best.  She really grew on me over the course of the novel.  At the beginning I felt sorry for her but during the story you really learn how strong and kind hearted she is.  Despite what she's has to deal with she still finds the courage to look outside her situation and think of others.  I found the story really reflected on how bullying can not only affect how people perceive themselves but also how others perceive them too.  Which was something I hadn't thought of before.

I don't want to go into too much detail here because I don't want to spoil the story by giving too much away.  Not everything is as it seems, and although I guessed the truth - I think we are supposed too - I didn't go into the novel expecting it and I loved that.  It was this element that took me by surprise - giving the novel a nice creepy feel but also making the serious topic of bullying accessible and something to think about.

And I think I've worked out what OTOLI means!

Bryony kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions...

What inspired you to write OTOLI?
As a mum, a teacher and a child, I have seen and experienced bullying in so many forms. I have seen how the effects of bullying can stay with the victim for a very long time, leaving behind vulnerable, self-conscious people. I wanted to make the readers understand that bullying is not just an incident at one moment in time - it can be hard to shake the bullied label. Also, I wanted to entertain and write something a little bit different.

I grew to really care about Alice. How did you come up with her character?
Alice is a composite of many children I have met and known. All the taunts have happened to someone, and her reactions are representations of how some mentally bullied children have had. I wanted my readers to sympathise with her, but to also see something of themselves in her if they are suffering.

Is there a scene in the book that really stands out for you?
The prom dress scene with Jenny is one of my favourites but it made me cry when I wrote it! Also, I like the scenes when my two angst-ridden children, Alice and Kieran, found a friend. It can't all be doom and gloom.

What would you like people to take away from reading OTOLI?
Like I said before, I want people to appreciate the long-term effects of bullying. So many victims still suffer long after the bullying is over, feeling vulnerable and somewhat inadequate. I want my readers that are suffering to find comfort in the fact that they are not alone. And I want people to enjoy reading it - to read for the enjoyment of the story, not just for the message.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Oh yes, but life tends to get in the way! I love writing and I would like nothing more than to make my living from writing. But in the real world, I work full time as a middle school teacher and that pays the bills. The writing is my release.

What are your favourite aspects of writing? And the most challenging?
My favourite are making my characters and the story come to life; crying at sad scenes and changing the story's direction when I know that my characters would not behave like that. I love the creation. Also, I love hearing a reader's reactions to the book. For someone to say 'I love your book, it made me think' is one of the best things you could hear.

The most challenging is the post-publication publicity. There is so much work involved in getting the book noticed. It's also nerve-wracking waiting for the reviews to come back because you really want to hear good things.

Are there any authors that have been a strong influence on you?
That's a really difficult question to answer because I read absolutely loads and by anyone. I find that I am influenced by authors that entertain, whose books I just want to read and re-read, such as Ruth Rendell and Ian Rankin. My favourite ever book, which is probably the influence behind the supernatural element, is 'Rebecca' by Daphne duMaurier.

Are you planning on writing any more YA novels?
I have just finished a book called 'The Assembly Room', which is a teen novel that combines the witchcraft trials of 1645 with modern life in the Suffolk countryside. The trials that accused witches underwent come to life in the dreams of a fourteen year old girl, and she has to work out why her family is persecuted. And the ghosts are back in this one!

I have started another supernatural story tentatively called 'The House on the High Street', which is about a genuinely haunted house in a small town near where I live. Surprisingly enough, that's about ghosts too. (A bit of a common theme, I know. I loved ghost stories as a child so maybe I'm regressing in middle age!)
Thanks Bryony!

I also have a signed copy (a very carefully read copy), postcard and bookmark to giveaway. The giveaway is open to everyone. Closing date is 15 July 2011. Just fill in the form below - Good luck:)

This Giveaway is now closed.


Jules said...

Thanks for the giveaway.

I really enjoyed reading the interview!

Cliona said...

Hmm. I'm a bit confused from reading the summary, but I think I'll enter the giveaway :)

Lauren said...

I actually clicked through to this post thinking 'okay, what does OTOLI mean?' and now I'm thinking I'll definitely have to read it to found out. Great interview questions and answers too. :)

TheBookAddictedGirl said...

Thanks for the interview and giveaway! This book sounds absolutely amazing: I'll be keeping an eye out for it!
Thanks again, and fingers crossed! :D


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