Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: The Difference Between You and Me

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.

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