June 8, 2012

Review: The Difference Between You and Me

Book Cover By Madeleine George
Available now from Viking (Penguin)
Review copy

Madeleine George's sophomore book shifts between three points of view.  It's a little distracting at first since both Emily and Esther's sections are told in first person and Jesse's is in third.  But George's writing keeps the transition from being too jarring.

Jesse Halberstam is out and proud.  She goes around the school in an awful pair of boots and a homemade haircut hanging up posters with her manifesto for the liberation of weirdos.  But she has a secret.  Every Tuesday she meets Emily Miller at the library to make out.  Emily's in the closet and staying there.  She even has a boyfriend, Mike McDade.  Meanwhile, Jesse meets Esther Meinz in detention and the two join forces in activism.

StarMart wants to put a store in their town.  They're having trouble getting land, so they're trying to put pressure on the town to let them end.  That includes funding the Vander High School's dance and athletic programs.  Emily, the student council vice president, orchestrated the corporate sponsorship.  Jesse and Emily may be in love, but the closet and their opposing political views are tearing them apart.

At times I thought Esther's point of view wasn't needed, but I thought the character was very important to the story.  Everyone thinks she and Jesse are together, but neither of them show any sign of being interested.  In fact, her sexuality is never discussed.  She and Jesse are simply friends, and as Esther never brings her dating life up, it's none of Jesse's business.  They connect in plenty of other ways, including their experiences with each of their mother's breast cancer.

I loved Jesse's relationship with her parents.  Fran and Arthur pay attention to their daughter and are their to scold her when she gets in trouble.  It's quite a change from the usual absentee parents in young adult novels.  But even better, Jesse says things she shouldn't to her parents.  She's fifteen, she's frustrated, and it is so hard to relate to your parents at that age.

I thought THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME was a terrific book about adolescence and making a difference.  And for all the romance fans out there, there are some very swoony scenes.  And the final manifesto, about doing small things in big groups, made me feel better about only pledging a quarter per hour.  If all book bloggers worked together, we could make a difference in worldwide literacy and access to books.

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