OTOLI - Engaging, eerie and moving

A review by A Baker
In this beautifully written YA tale, Bryony Allen takes us on a journey into the lonely world of bullied teenager Alice Turner, and the solace she finds in a strange little cafe called Otoli. The waitress who works there, Jenny (who always seems to be scrubbing at something on a tabletop whenever Alice enters) offers her apparently unconditional friendship, and seems to understand the despair Alice feels at being a social outcast at school.
However, Jenny's friendship is only apparently unconditional, and as the novel progresses we realise, along with Alice, that there is much more to her new-found friend than meets the eye.
What I particularly loved about OTOLI is the way Bryony Allen draws the reader into Alice's world as inexorably as Alice herself is drawn into Jenny's. There's no spoiler in saying that a strong thread of the supernatural runs through the story, which Allen handles with a great subtlety and finesse which calls to mind the work of Susan Hill.
As the earlier review notes, Allen's own work as a teacher has clearly given her a profound and sympathetic understanding of the often tortuous journey from childhood to adulthood. OTOLI deserves to find a wide readership, and should certainly be in every school library.
An additional note: the book is published by the small indie press Pneuma Springs, and I was very impressed with the production quality. Not one typo in the entire book, which is more than can be said for many big publishers.
Highly recommended on all counts.

Paperback | Waterstones | Amazon UK


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