Monday, 28 April 2014

LGBT April: The Difference Between You and Me, Madeleine George


Pages: 256
Publisher: Viking Children’s Books
Release Date: 12th March 2012
Edition: US hardback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Looks, Precious Little, The Zero Hour

How do you choose between what you believe in and the one you love?

Jesse cuts her hair with a Swiss army knife. She wears massive green fisherman’s boots every day. She’s the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organisation to Liberate All Weirdos.

Emily is the vice president of student council. She has an internship with a local big business. She loves her boyfriend.

At least she thinks she does. But there’s no denying her feelings for Jesse. When they meet up every Tuesday in the bathroom of the local library, the physical connection they share in undeniable.

Jesse doesn’t want to keep their relationship a secret; Emily does. But when they find themselves on opposite sides of a heated school issue, both girls are forced to choose between their convictions and their attachment to each other.

In masterful, incisive prose, Madeleine George has crafted a thought-provoking and funny story about two girls with equally passionate yet very different ideas about changing the world.

I had incredibly high hopes for The Difference Between You and Me but I was rather disappointed.

Firstly, the things I did enjoy. The structure of George’s novel is interesting and unique, and I think it works... The Difference Between You and Me is split between three points of view: Jesse, Emily and Esther and there’ll as in first person present tense, except Jesse’s chapters. Her story is told via close third person. That in itself is a bit unsettling to begin with, but with the dramatic change, it definitely stood out. That reflected George’s idea of Jesse, I think; just how different and revolutionary she is.

My favourite element of the novel was the way that Jesse and Emily’s relationship was explored and resolved, because it didn’t end with a kiss and a happily ever after. It ended with Jesse realising she was worth more than a secret and actually, she had to support her beliefs. It’s unusual for the core relationship of a novel to not be the endgame and it was refreshing. I wish more YA would go in that direction as I think it’s far truer to life and teenage love.

Although I enjoyed and even admired those aspects, I was overpowered by my complete ambivalence towards all of the characters. The novel could have stopped halfway through where they all drove off a cliff and I’d be completely cool with it, ready to move on to something else. There wasn’t a single spark for any of them. I can understand that with Emily (selfish, naive, irritating), Jesse’s mum (infuriating and overly dramatic) and Wyatt’s dad (a bigoted idiot), but I don’t quite know why I felt so ambivalent towards Jesse and the rest of the characters!

My final book for LGBT April was a bit of a disappointment, but I’ve read a crapton of amazing books this month so I can’t really quibble too much!

Sophie

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