Book Review: Odd & True
By: Cat Winters
Published By: Amulet Books
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Historical Fantasy
I'm a huge fan of Cat Winters. I know that when I pick up one of her novels there will be a delicious mix of historical detail and paranormal twists. The cover of this novel was what first caught my eye, but I was also excited to learn that it would largely focus on two sisters - Odette aka Od and Trudchen aka Tru. I love novels that have strong sister relationships.
Od and Tru haven't had the easiest lives. They learn from an early age that reality can be distorted and sometimes losing yourself in stories is the best way to handle reality. The girls navigate a complicated family structure and periods of neglect before finding themselves living in rural Oregon with an aunt and uncle. Their contact with their father ends and their mother only contacts the house sporadically. The girls largely are raised by their aunt and uncle, but come to rely on one another deeply. The bond between Od and Tru is strong and special. The pair would do anything for one another, but when Od is sent away, Tru can't fathom what would keep her sister at bay for so long. Letters arrive from Od detailing her adventures chasing monsters and working for the circus, but the undercurrent of her words leaves Tru on edge as she can't quite believe everything in her sister's words.
On the night of Tru's fifteenth birthday, Od shows up again, seemingly coming from the very mist that surrounds the farmhouse. Od wants nothing more than to lead Tru away on an adventure to find monsters, but Tru realizes that Oregon may be the best place for her. Tru is disabled after a bout with polio when she two and as such she requires rest and assistance; Tru can't walk without her brace, special shoe, and cane. Od insists that Tru is capable of so much more than Oregon can offer her - in spite of her debilitating injury. After much thought, Tru decides to leave with her sister. She doesn't believe in monsters, but she does want answers about their family's secrets. Tru was sheltered from the early chaos that tore the family apart, but she knows the events still haunt Od.
The girls head for Philadelphia when it seems that fate is pointing in the direction. Once they arrive they learn the story of the fearsome New Jersey Devil (NJD) that stalks the Pine Barrens. This is a legend that I am familiar with and heard most recently about on one of my favorite podcasts, Lore. There are variations in the origin of the NJD, but the consistent theme is that the creature terrorized the people, causing fear and hysteria to run rampant. The NJD sounds frightening to me, but somehow Od and Tru decide that they must vanquish him and save the people of New Jersey and Pennsylvania from further injury at the NJD's claws.
Before heading out to search for the NJD, the girls will have to confront some of their human demons. Secrets that Od has tried to keep buried will bubble to the surface while Tru will desperately wish to reconnect with their long lost mother.
One major thing I am walking away from after reading this is that stories are truly an escape for so many people in desperate circumstances. Stories have a way of soothing what aches and providing a sense of comfort. Living in a character's shoes can often shine a mirror into the reader's life and help them see things more clearly. Secondly, I can't help pondering the notion of monsters after finishing this one. So often we are caught up by the monsters that plague us in our day to day lives that these elements such as stress and loss can take on characteristics that feel like we are battling werewolves and dragons. Monsters come in many shapes and sizes, but they all leave bruises on our hearts and minds.
If you're looking for a novel that seamlessly blends historical detail with complicated issues and paranormal elements, then I'd suggest picking up Odd & True. While this novel takes place in the early 1900's, I still found Od and Tru to be relatable characters. My heart broke for them at times, but other moments caused me to cheer at their triumphs. These sisters could give the Winchester brothers a run for their money.
One Last Gripe: I liked the epilogue, but I would have liked to see things develop for Tru and Od rather than just getting a brief snapshot.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The relationship between Od & Tru
First Sentence: "Tell me the story again," I urged my sister in the nighttime blackness of our attic bedroom.
Favorite Character: Tru
Least Favorite Character: Cy
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.