The Difference Between You and Me
By Madeline George
Expected publication March 15, 2012 by Viking Children's Books
Jesse is sort of your stereotypical lesbian - she wears manly clothes, she cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife, she believes in freeing the world from gender oppression, and if you saw her on the street, you'd probably assume she plays softball. But Jesse has a secret - it involves the third-floor handicapped bathroom of the library and someone not so stereotypical. Emily pretty much has it all - totally amazing boyfriend, stellar academic career with bonus looks-awesome-on-your-resume extracurriculars, vice presidency of the student council, etc. But she also has a secret - she can't deny the powerful feelings that come over her in the third-floor handicapped bathroom of the library.
I read George's debut novel a couple years ago and remember finding it a bit weird, but beautifully written. I think here, George has told a more easily accessible tale but her writing is not quite as memorable. I love that George chooses to tell this story - of the affair between Jesse and Emily. It is a bold choice and I think it will reach out to a lot of teens (really, in my opinion, there can never be enough well-written GLBTQ lit for young people). And this book is still very well-written; I just didn't find the language as poetic and memorable as her debut. What I find most memorable about this book is Jesse. I described her in that first sentence up there as your stereotypical lesbian - and in many ways she is. But Jesse is also incredibly unique and well-developed - I find her pieces of the book the most fascinating. What's interesting is that George chooses not to tell Jesse's story in first-person, as she does with Emily and Esther. Why does she make this choice? I can't really say, but I still feel like I know Jesse's inner workings better than Emily's or Esther's. But Emily and Esther are great characters, too - I think Emily wonderfully personifies the person in denial. She reminds me a lot of people I've known. And I love Esther's story. I am glad that we don't know exactly where this novel is going to go after it's over - and I feel like there is definitely still more story happening after we finish the last page. This book is immensely readable and I know it will strike a chord with many readers. I definitely recommend this title!
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.