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YA Book Review: 'The Shapeshifter's Secret' by Heather Ostler

By Pocketfulofbooks @PocketfulofBooks

The Shapeshifter's Secret by Heather Ostler YA Book Review: 'The Shapeshifter's Secret' by Heather Ostler Published: June 12th, 2012
Publisher: Cedar Fort Format: E-Book
Pages: 328

Cover Art
I'm not a big fan of photos on covers, but that is just a personal preference. I think this is a very well put together cover and is very eye-catching and striking. I love unusual lettering and the 'S' is gorgeous. I have noticed that this publisher is particularly good at producing very nice covers and I think this is another good one.

Plot Synopsis
Julia is finally discovering what–not who–she is.
Like any sixteen-year-old, Julia's used to dealing with problems. From her overprotective father to her absent mother to a teacher who definitely has it in for her. But everything changes when Julia's reactions become oddly vicious and angry---more animal than human. This action-packed adventure has it all: humor, romance, and a plot that will keep you guessing to the very last page

My Rating: YA Book Review: 'The Shapeshifter's Secret' by Heather Ostler
First Line:
''Julia thought of how completely and utterly complicated Caleb Glyndor really was."
Pocket-Size Review
I didn't enjoy this book. It screams 'Harry Potter fan fiction' but without any charm or style. 
Highs: Hmmm. I did read it fast so it was like junk food; you know it's bad for you but, against your own better judgement, you suddenly find you're addicted.
Lows: Awful writing, awful characters, AWFUL love story! Yuck.


This book was terrible. I wasn't going to publish this review because I agreed to be a stop on the blog tour for this book, and I felt awful publishing a negative review that I knew the author would read (she started following my blog after I interviewed her). However, I felt really dishonest not posting it, and felt I was just brushing it under the carpet because I felt guilty. I don't want to have to censor myself just because the author is lovely; Heather was incredibly nice and helpful, but her book just wasn't for me. I don't think there is any shame in that so I decided to go ahead and discuss why I really did not enjoy this book.
The first, and largest, problem that I had with this book is one which I know other people have noticed as well. It was much too similar to Harry Potter, to the point where you know it wasn't an accident. As soon as the castle boarding school came into the picture with it's charmed statues that came to life, alarm bells starting ringing. They didn't stop. Check out this review by Seanean on Goodreads for a full list of reasons why it is suspiciously Potter-esque, as her list is much more comprehensive and well though out than one that I would come up with!
There are other reasons why I disliked this book so much. The main character Julia is utterly unlikeable. She is such a drama queen, and has frequent tantrums about the slightest things. She is too boy crazy and has an obnoxiousness and arrogance about her that is really off-putting. She is bitchy towards other girls for absolutely no reason whatsoever. To be fair to Julia though, none of the characters are likeable. Caleb, the first love interest, annoyed me right from the start by calling Julia's friends 'shallow' and saying that every girl dreams of being a princess. I say 'hell no' to gender stereotypes every time so I did not appreciate that. However, he is positively dreamy compared to Terrence, the second love interest who I utterly despised. I am so not into macho, protective men; give me geekiness and glasses and shyness and maybe a guitar. Obviously this is personal preference, but I do get turned off as soon as a tanned, six foot Adonis walks in the room which his knuckles brushing the floor. I like clever banter and teasing not insta-love and...smarminess! Terrence is the epitome of smarm. I kept thinking of him as Wickham from 'Pride and Prejudice' because he seemed so smooth and I did not trust him at all. However, he never develops and is nothing more than the Prince Charming that he seemed to be. Perhaps the author lost her nerve. The love is much too fast- there is no build up or tension. Oh, and Terrence delivers what may be one of the cheesiest lines I have ever heard. He holds out his hand and says, 'Would you do me a favour and hold this?' THERE IS NOTHING IN HIS HAND. HE MEANT HIS HAND. BLEURRGHURRRGHHURRGH. I feel dirty.
I also found that their relationship kinda had a sinister undertone. Julia becomes so vulnerable so quickly and it bothered me. She goes out walking with Terrence at night on deserted grounds when she hardly knows him; as I have already explained, I did not trust him and it made me feel uncomfortable. Especially when Julia says, 'there was a major problem in our relationship- I'd never be able to say no'. Urgrggghhrrh. I hate that dynamic in a relationship and I find it unsettling. Basically any romance to be found in this novel can be described in one wonderful word: icky. Icky love.

The foundations of the novel were not stable or....logical! One of the main factors in the book is that you start becoming emotionally unstable at 16, and you can't control your emotions, so you begin to shapeshift into a werecat when you turn 16. This just didn't make sense to me. Surely when you are pre-16 you are much less in control of your emotions; I don't see many 16 year olds having temper tantrums and stamping their feet whereas when I am in a supermarket I can't move for the amount of 3 year olds doing just that. Perhaps the author is trying to tie it in with maturity and hormones, and sexual desire and things that peak when you are 16, but again I feel that 16 is still not right. I felt she just picked that age out of the air so that she could make her characters old enough to get a little sexy and flirty, which annoyed me. In fact, the only element she doesn't seem to have taken from Harry Potter, the characters' young ages at the beginning of the series, is the bit she really should've left in! Why could they not have grown up throughout the rest of the series and let the romance come naturally? Slow burner is best in my humble opinion.
Another thing that annoyed me was their clothes. What happened to them when they changed into werecats?! Perhaps I've been reading too much 'The Time Traveller's Wife', but it just doesn't make sense that you would be fully clothed again when you changed back into a human after being a werecat! Do these werecats run around wearing jeans and tees? There is no explanation on this point and it totally bugged me.
Even though I have highlighted what I disliked about this book, I do have to say in its defence that I completely devoured it in just over a day.  It was so addictive, and I did like the setting in the boarding school (even if it did have uncanny similarities to that famous know...Hog something?) 
Other Thoughts This Book has Inspired me to Read: It made me want to watch 'Animorphs'. Ahh Tobias and first loves Three Words to Describe this Book: Harry, Potter, Rip-Off

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