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Review: Random by Alma Alexander

Review: Random by Alma Alexander published on 5 Comments on Review: Random by Alma Alexander

The Young Adult genre is filled with trilogies and tetralogies. All manner of beasts and creatures require three or four books to properly tell their story. And they aren’t wimpy, 250 page books either; they’re doorstoppers. They are 150,000 angsty words of teenage drama combined with fantasy and trauma. A lot of them have a sense of sameness: a love triangle, a lonely outcast heroine, usually some mean girls, a dangerous hero, and a secret world filled with .

The description of Random reveals that it is a cut above these dime a dozen fantasy romance trilogies.

My name is Jazz Marsh. I am a Random Were, which means I am a Were of no fixed form – like all Random Were, my family can become any warm-blooded creature which is the last thing they see before they Turn. For me, when my time came, that meant… trouble.

I was quite young when I lost my older sister, Celia, and my family never spoke about her. It was only when I found the secret diaries that she had left behind that I began to discover the truth behind her life and her death.

I never understood what drove my moody and dangerous older brother until I began to get an inkling about his part in Celia’s death… and until, driven to the edge of patience and understanding, he finally had to face his own Turn problems… and disastrously took matters into his own hands. One thing is clear.

Everything I thought I knew about Were-kind was wrong.


This is a love story. Oh, there is no romantic lead, or even the hint of a subplot. It is a love story between Jazz and her family members. Jazz was the baby of the family; she did not have to live through leaving the Old Country, did not have to cast off her old name and choose one more fitting for the real world, and was born in such a different time and place that it was almost like she was not a real part of the family. This is a subtle and recurring theme. When we first start getting into the heart of the story, when Jazz begins publishing her dead sister’s diaries on her blog, we begin to realize that Jazz is lonely, and set apart, and her family is deliberately doing that to her.

Jazz’s sister Celia kept a journal up until the last day of her life, and it is through these pages that Jazz begins to know her. Sure, she lived with her for seven years, and even slept in the same room for two, but even so simple a fact as her sister’s real name (Svetlana) was new to her. As she reads onward, her relationships with the other members of her family are slowly deepened (and then blown wide open, but I’m not going to go into detail). It is such subtle writing.

Alexander has a lot to talk about in Random: bullying, prejudice, cruelty, being different, family secrets. But she manages it with grace and skill, as she has in so many of her other books. It was the family relationships that really intrigued me, but Random has something for everyone.

J Wilbanks

J Wilbanks

Reviewer and Columnist at Galleywampus
She has a cat.
J Wilbanks


I am not an avid reader of YA these days, being that I am nearing forty, but I am versed in the genre since I work for a national book store chain that shall remain nameless. That being said, this sounds extremely interesting and I will have to check to see if we carry it in the store.

I didn’t read YA until I took an MLIS class on YA literature. I had to read 50 works in three months. Then I took a tween literature class. Another 50 books, that time in a one month class. After 100 books in four months, I needed a break.

But I did discover that there are some really excellent works of YA out there, and that has led me to at least give YA, teen and tween books a chance. Two years ago, I would have passed them by completely.

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