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Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" t Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" they share every Tuesday afternoon. Jesse wishes their relationship could be out in the open, but Emily feels she has too much to lose. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a heated school conflict, they each have to decide what's more important: what you believe in, or the one you love?


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Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" t Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" they share every Tuesday afternoon. Jesse wishes their relationship could be out in the open, but Emily feels she has too much to lose. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a heated school conflict, they each have to decide what's more important: what you believe in, or the one you love?

30 review for The Difference Between You and Me

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    I really did mostly like The Difference Between You and Me. There were some things that struck me as a little bit strange from the beginning. The book is told in alternating chapters, mostly from the main character's points of view. Jesse's chapters are told exclusively in third person (albeit a very close third person, so close that I sometimes forgot it was third at all) and Emily's chapters are exclusively first person. Weird, but okay. The premise - that a closeted, preppy student council gi I really did mostly like The Difference Between You and Me. There were some things that struck me as a little bit strange from the beginning. The book is told in alternating chapters, mostly from the main character's points of view. Jesse's chapters are told exclusively in third person (albeit a very close third person, so close that I sometimes forgot it was third at all) and Emily's chapters are exclusively first person. Weird, but okay. The premise - that a closeted, preppy student council girl and the resident school lesbian freak have been making out for ages - was cute, and enough like my high school fantasy life that I was happy to play along. On a superficial level, the novel answered most of my expectations very well. The characters were sometimes obnoxious, but in a very honest way. The characters were actually my favorite thing about the story. They were all obviously trying very hard, in the really slow, painful way that we all try really hard and don't always succeed when we're fifteen or raising a fifteen-year-old. That aspect, of trying and grasping for something but never quite reaching it, felt very sincere to me, and in my opinion carried the novel. This is very much focused around two (or three) high school sophomores and a freshman. I like YA, so that's okay, but I suspect that someone who doesn't would very quickly get tired of the awkward parental discussions and such. Generally speaking, it was a little bit funny, a little bit awkward, and all of the characters were trying so hard that I couldn't help but root for them. I'd be lying if I didn't say I didn't enjoy it. But, on any more than a superficial level, there were a lot of aspects of the book that just didn't work for me. Unlike a lot of people, I didn't dislike Emily. I do think that putting her chapters in first person did an enormous disservice to the character. Emily is tightly-wound, high-strung and over-achieving to all possible extremes. First person not only brings out her many annoying qualities, but it doesn't let us see very much of who Emily is as a person. This is a girl who spends an awful lot of time lying to herself, so of course she uses her monologues to try to convince us of that. I think another very very tight third person PoV would have cut down on the annoyance issues, and given us more of a sense of the reality of her life. Honestly, we know more about Jesse's two friends' lives than Emily's, which is painful when Emily is supposed to be a protagonist. Which is really the main problem I have: George never really commits to Emily. This is really Jesse's journey, which is fine except that (view spoiler)[her journey seems to mostly involve that everything about her relationship with Emily has been bad for her. Very early on, Emily makes it clear that she thinks all of Jesse's political ranting is "insanity," and that mostly they can't talk because they don't agree on anything. It feels like I just read a tale of how Jesse got in with a bad crowd and worked her way out. When really, I was never worried about Jesse, who is out, grounded, more or less aware of what she wants, and has parents (and friends) who support her and to whom she really can talk if she needs to. I was worried about Emily, who is endlessly hard on herself, puts everyone's needs above her own (except, apparently, Jesse's) and doesn't really have anywhere to be safe and honest. Some of this might be a difference in expectation. I'd hoped that "CAN THEIR RELATIONSHIP SURVIVE THEIR POLITICAL DIFFERENCES" would result in a novel about their figuring out how to be together despite those things. When Emily said they had nothing in common, I was hoping that maybe they'd find things, or discover things about each other to bond over. I was really hoping for young love overcoming all odds. This was, frankly, the lesbian book that I checked out of the library because I didn't expect that any of the other ones I got would be happy. And then the response to "CAN WE SURVIVE THESE DIFFERENCES" is just "no, I don't think so." Emily says they have nothing in common except kissing, and at the end that's still true. Jesse suspects her family will hate Emily, and they do. It's like they had this opportunity to overcome the odds, and then they decided it wasn't worth the effort. It might be realistic, and maybe they were just doomed to failure, but it was still very different from what I'd hoped it might be. I'm disappointed, I guess. I feel like there was so much more they could have overcome, if they were willing to try. And I'm sick of watching gay characters finish out their stories single, dead, or straight. (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Didactic, full of stereotypes and too message driven.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I had some serious problems with this book. First, Jesse and every other character is a flaming stereotype. It's okay to be butch, or do whatever you want to express your orientation/gender identity/political beliefs- that's chill. It's just that it's THE ENTIRE BOOK. Everyone is a liberal radical who fights the system and listens to NPR and has quirky accessories and causes. That, or they're an objectivist (Wyatt, gay best friend (if they're both gay, does that stereotype count? Is there a lesb I had some serious problems with this book. First, Jesse and every other character is a flaming stereotype. It's okay to be butch, or do whatever you want to express your orientation/gender identity/political beliefs- that's chill. It's just that it's THE ENTIRE BOOK. Everyone is a liberal radical who fights the system and listens to NPR and has quirky accessories and causes. That, or they're an objectivist (Wyatt, gay best friend (if they're both gay, does that stereotype count? Is there a lesbian best friend trend? Is that a thing?)) or part of the machine supporting big corporations (Wyatt's father, Emily). It wasn't any *one* stereotype or ridiculous thing that really made me angry when I was reading this... it was all of it heaped together. It got old very fast. Second, there was such a missed opportunity in the whole Jesse/Emily relationship. It felt like ships passing in the night. My expectations from the cover blurb weren't met at all. I keep being told their making out is "awesome" and "the best thing ever" and "so intense" (drinking game (with water or juice for the under-aged, of course): take a drink every time they use the word "intense" in this book), but there's nothing there. Nothing. I suppose that's the point- their connection is purely physical and they even mention that they don't talk to each other normally and that's why (view spoiler)[ the relationship ultimately fails (hide spoiler)] - but it just came off wrong to me. Third, the way she chose to narrate characters. Emily herself was a disappointment. She's the only almost the only character we hear from first-person and this probably contributed to why I spent the whole book wanting to slap her. She rationalizes and rationalizes and back-stabs and UGGGHHH. We only ever hear from Jesse in third, which worked and was alright, but Jesse's boring. She has little flaws... but her perspective isn't nearly as interesting as the minor characters (like Esther- I really liked her first-person sections), even ones who don't get that much screen time. Jesse came off as the empty stereotype that she is, which is disappointing because she had so many opportunities not to be. She has a mom in remission from cancer, she's in a sort-of-relationship with a closet case (is Emily bi? Lesbian? never resolved, neither possibility even discussed- bi people exist!), she has weird relationships she could explore and people to figure out (Snediker? What is up with you?? Why are you so mean? What caused your about-face? Never resolved.)... she has the ideal set-up for a character and I think that's her biggest weakness: the quirks and cool minor characters stopped Jesse from ever being fully developed and that's really too bad/angering. Also, there was this little passage about which I'm still not sure how I feel: "Ester has taken a little notebook out of her book bag and is writing something across the top of one page in big letters. 'To do!' she crows. 'It sounds like a lot of hard work,' Jesse said listlessly." Emphasis mine, but get it? Because it's a to-do list? And it's not Jesse making it? Ba ha ha. Was this an inadvertent pun? Or was it an intentional stealth pun? If the latter, four for you, Glen Coco! You go Glen Coco... (ahem). But back on point. The final thing that bothered me about this book (and a lot of realistic YA I've been reading, actually) is that NOTHING IS RESOLVED. Emily and Jesse: (view spoiler)[ Sure, they broke up (from whatever their weird sneak-make-out-but-Emily-still-has-a-public-boyfriend relationship was), but what about Jesther? (Yes, I just made a couple name portmanteau. I blame the Internet.) Jesse and Esther dance together at the end... but are they going to get together? Were they dancing as friends?? Damn you, Madeleine George! (hide spoiler)] Wyatt/minor characters: (view spoiler)[ So what, Jesse- you get to be a bitch for most of the book to people who love you (Wyatt, you made that comment about cancer to your MOTHER, etc) and they're just chill with it without you ever really apologizing? Okay. (hide spoiler)] And worst of all, StarMart: (view spoiler)[ WHAT THE HELL? This was the main secondary conflict in the story that underscored the tense relationship of Emily and Jesse... and you're leaving it completely open-ended. Will the coalition of weirdos (Jesse calls herself that) raise enough money to combat the StarMart store and stop it from coming to their town? Will the school's corporate sponsorship end? Who the hell knows, you ENDED THE BOOK. //book hits wall// (hide spoiler)] Overall, just a let down. It hurts to be this critical- I love YA and anything with LGBTQIA themes- but this book just didn't do it for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    The cover featured here is so different from the cover on my copy of the book. Wow. (I don't like either of them, actually.) I have mixed feelings about this book. What I liked: it's a fast, enjoyable read with an empowering ending. A couple of the characters, particularly Jesse, ended up being more complex than I initially anticipated. Jesse's parents are present and positively involved in her life. The themes of the book (for example: being true to yourself) are age appropriate. TDBYAM is not The cover featured here is so different from the cover on my copy of the book. Wow. (I don't like either of them, actually.) I have mixed feelings about this book. What I liked: it's a fast, enjoyable read with an empowering ending. A couple of the characters, particularly Jesse, ended up being more complex than I initially anticipated. Jesse's parents are present and positively involved in her life. The themes of the book (for example: being true to yourself) are age appropriate. TDBYAM is not a typical "coming out" book (it's not a coming out book at all, actually). The narrative manages to be simultaneously funny and affecting. Many of the "issues" in the book (the dangers of large socially-irresponsible corporations, prejudice, parent-child relationships, cancer) are substantive. And Emily and Jesse's mutual desire is, for the most part, believable. What I didn't like: The entire book felt too contrived to me, too pre-packaged. Too many obvious YA tropes and characters that, in the end, were too stock. Although I wanted to imagine Jesse and Emily and Esther (and everyone else in the book) as real people, I just couldn't. They were always types. So, in the end, I was disappointed. I'd recommend the book to teen readers, but not zealously.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie's Picks: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME by Madeleine George, Viking, March 2012, 272p., ISBN: 978-0-670-01128-5 "Light a candle, curse the glare" -- Hunter/Garcia "'This is a conversation,' Jesse's father says, 'about what happened at school today.' "'I don't really feel like having a conversation about what happened at school today,' Jesse shrugs. "'Well, you're gonna,' snaps her mother. Jesse's father lays a restraining hand lightly on his wife's arm. "'Sweetheart,' he says to Jesse, 'It' Richie's Picks: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME by Madeleine George, Viking, March 2012, 272p., ISBN: 978-0-670-01128-5 "Light a candle, curse the glare" -- Hunter/Garcia "'This is a conversation,' Jesse's father says, 'about what happened at school today.' "'I don't really feel like having a conversation about what happened at school today,' Jesse shrugs. "'Well, you're gonna,' snaps her mother. Jesse's father lays a restraining hand lightly on his wife's arm. "'Sweetheart,' he says to Jesse, 'It's not that we don't respect your feelings about pep rallies--' "'Pep rallies revolt me,' Jesse interrupts. "'And we respect that. You have every right to those feelings. But handling those feelings by crawling through a bathroom window--' "'Unsuccessfully,' her mother points out. "'Handling those perfectly legitimate, valid feelings by crawling through a bathroom window, sweetheart, is a maladaptive coping strategy that--' "'Shrinkydink.' Jesse cuts him off. "'I'm sorry, I'll rephrase.' Her father has agreed not to use terms from his family therapy practice with his daughter except in extreme emotional emergencies. 'By choosing this way of handling your feelings you...you complicated things, you made things harder on yourself, you--' "'You screwed up,' her mother interrupts, impatient. 'Is this NYU-bound behavior? This bathroom-window Keystone Kops routine?' '''Fran.' Now Jesse's father lays his hand on his wife's shoulder, but she shrugs it off. "'I'm pissed, Arthur, I don't want to be calmed down, I want to be angry!' "'I hear you, but--' "'What were you thinking?' Fran stares her daughter down. 'I hate to have to say that, it's such a parenting cliche, but what on earth was going through your mind at that moment?' "Jesse takes a deep breath and presents her case. "'Pep rallies revolt me. I refuse to attend them and in this quote unquote free country I shouldn't have to. I can't believe I have to explain this to you guys! Pep rallies are fascist demonstrations of loyalty and I am not loyal to my school. I hate my school. I'm the opposite of loyal to it. If I wouldn't end up in jail, I would blow it up.' "'If you wouldn't end up in jail, blowing it up wouldn't be much of a principled statement,' Fran observes. She's a lawyer; she can't resist a counterargument. "'I'm curious about why we're talking about the violent destruction of property all of a sudden,' asks Arthur. "'Because apparently your daughter is an incipient terrorist!' Fran shouts, turning on her husband. 'And not, I might add, a particularly competent one.' "Jesse looks down at her lap, stung. "'I'm sorry,' Jesse's mother flushes red. She gives Jesse a look of sincere apology. 'I'm sorry, honey. I'm sure if you were a terrorist, you'd make a wonderful one.'" In turns hysterically funny, deeply sensual, patently absurd, and painfully anguishing, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME sports one of those covers that is fully interchangeable with any number of contemporary teen novels. But this is one of those SAVING FRANCESCA-sort of books: one whose brilliant plotting and dialogue elevate it a million miles above the chick-lit genre with which a book like this could -- from the cover -- be so easily but quite mistakenly grouped. Emily: "But to be honest, at that point I was getting pretty annoyed with some of the people working under me on the refreshments committee (like Lauren Weiss and Kim Watson and Kimmie Hersh, to name three) because they kept putting out more and more Costco-brand cheese curls, which were the only refreshments we were serving that night, even though I told them repeatedly that they had to ration the snacks so they would last for the entire event, and all of a sudden I was just like, you know what, screw this, let them put out however many cheese curls they want, whenever they want to. And I told Michael I had to use the restroom and I went to find Jesse." Yup. Jessie Halberstam, author of student manifestos and fashion-challenged lesbian, an ultimate high school outsider, and Emily Miller, the girl of the uber-popular boyfriend and heralded participant in all sorts of school and community functions, an ultimate high school insider, are in an intensely passionate, utterly secret relationship. But what happens when Jesse is humiliated by Emily's popular friends in the girl's room, right in front of Emily, who cannot say a word? And what happens when Jesse becomes a leader in opposing corporate sponsorship of school dances and sports teams by a predatory big box discount chain that has actually been recruited for this purpose by politically-clueless Emily? Author Madeleine George crafts an awesome tale that avoids the pitfalls of the overly-campy and the overly-sincere. Despite the significant issues that underlie the story, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME is anchored firmly in freshness and sweetness and honesty and humor, making it an absolute joy to read. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com [email protected] Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_... http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/facult...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ab

    Ok, so I think I'm ready to review this book. I needed to get some space away from it, first. I guess it just pissed me off, more than anything. In Madeleine George fashion, the chapters alternate perspectives between main characters, much like "Looks". My problem with this book was just how crappy Jesse gets treated over and over again, and how oblivious Emily is to everything taking an ounce of brains/intelligence/common sense. I KNOW people get treated badly every day; I KNOW it's hard to be Ok, so I think I'm ready to review this book. I needed to get some space away from it, first. I guess it just pissed me off, more than anything. In Madeleine George fashion, the chapters alternate perspectives between main characters, much like "Looks". My problem with this book was just how crappy Jesse gets treated over and over again, and how oblivious Emily is to everything taking an ounce of brains/intelligence/common sense. I KNOW people get treated badly every day; I KNOW it's hard to be queer and out in high school; I KNOW there are uber ditz girls in high school and life. I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW. But seriously, someone as awesome and anti-establishment, pro-justic, anti-"The Man", and serious enough about her politics and sense of justice to guerilla post handmade posters all over the school ... she just takes shoddy treatment and blatant ignorance from a chick she digs? Really? REALLY? It's just SO unbelievable and frustrating, that the book is just almost not worth reading at all! Now I say "almost" because I don't presume to tell people what to read -- pick up this book, read it, and I want to know what others got from it; what redeeming qualities you found in it? Because I'm honestly at a loss. The main focus of this book should have been Esther - peaceful protesting, detention-getting, fuck-fakers attitude chick. She would've made this a much more interesting book. This could have been a short story and gotten as much of a point or whatever across as it did in an entire book. ughh. Just pissed me off.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book bummed me out. Ostensibly it's about two high school girls, sophomore Jesse and junior Emily. Jesse is out and proud about being both queer and a weirdo; Emily is closeted, buttoned up, a striver. Their common ground is the time they secretly spend together every week making out in a library restroom. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a controversy over a Walmart-like company moving into town questions arise about what their relationship means to each of them and what they This book bummed me out. Ostensibly it's about two high school girls, sophomore Jesse and junior Emily. Jesse is out and proud about being both queer and a weirdo; Emily is closeted, buttoned up, a striver. Their common ground is the time they secretly spend together every week making out in a library restroom. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a controversy over a Walmart-like company moving into town questions arise about what their relationship means to each of them and what they expect of each other. And this is what bothered me: Despite allowing Emily to address the reader directly in a series of first person chapters, the book seemed to have no empathy or compassion for her. Her closetedness was cast as a kind of moral failure when, come on, she's like sixteen years old! I don't love the idea of opposing the stigma around queerness by substituting a stigma around closetedness, but it's extra problematic in a YA novel aimed at queer kids, so, so many of whom are closeted for good reasons or just still in the process of sorting out their identities. We can do better than giving those kids more reasons to feel badly about themselves.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This book really wasn’t anything like I was expecting. I thought it was mostly going to be a love story about Emily coming to terms with who she is. That really wasn’t the case at all. The story revolves around Jesse the most and it’s really about her finding herself, standing up for what she believes in, and just growing up. Emily’s role in the story is a bit smaller and infuriating. I really loved Jesse. She was very complex and very unique. She didn’t care to be different but her feelings for This book really wasn’t anything like I was expecting. I thought it was mostly going to be a love story about Emily coming to terms with who she is. That really wasn’t the case at all. The story revolves around Jesse the most and it’s really about her finding herself, standing up for what she believes in, and just growing up. Emily’s role in the story is a bit smaller and infuriating. I really loved Jesse. She was very complex and very unique. She didn’t care to be different but her feelings for Emily really made her vulnerable. That made her feel extremely believable to me. Throughout the story Jesse grows. She has to figure out what’s more important to her, her secret relationship with Emily or her beliefs. I had a lot of fun watching her journey and I think we could all stand to be a little more like Jesse. Emily on the other hand….The book is told from alternating points of view with Jesse in the spotlight more often, but when Emily had her turn I couldn’t help but pity this poor naive girl. She is vice president of student council and very serious about it. She also has a very serious boyfriend, but she meets Jesse once a week for a short make out session. She was very unlikeable, but I think she was supposed to be. That’s just who she was. It was a great way to show the contrast between them. Props to Madeleine George for writing such very different but equally interesting characters. The Difference Between You and Me isn’t a romance so don’t go into it expecting one. It’s an intelligent story about a girl struggling to figure out who she is in a unique situation. I enjoyed every second of it and I think you will too!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Becky Shaknovich

    I really loved this book, contrary to popular goodreads reviewer opinion. Compared to other books I have read about teen love affairs, is it SEXY! The makeout sessions are described in an intense, realistic way, which I feel teen readers deserve. Sexual activity does not have to be glossed over in YA books. I'm not sure if teens will really relate to the story line, because there is a strong focus on politics. The "differences" that teens usually face (in books and probably in real life, from my I really loved this book, contrary to popular goodreads reviewer opinion. Compared to other books I have read about teen love affairs, is it SEXY! The makeout sessions are described in an intense, realistic way, which I feel teen readers deserve. Sexual activity does not have to be glossed over in YA books. I'm not sure if teens will really relate to the story line, because there is a strong focus on politics. The "differences" that teens usually face (in books and probably in real life, from my experience) have to do with popularity vs. geekiness, or maybe race/ethnicity/class/gender/orientation type differences. However, in The Difference Between You and Me, the main difference between the two girls who are having a (mostly physical) relationship are their political beliefs and ideologies, alongside the popular vs. dorky situation, of course. Lusting for someone who does not fit into one's value system, and feeling conflicted or shameful over that, seems to me to be a problem we don't usually face until adulthood. Personally, I was able to relate to the difficulty of being in a secretive relationship and how that can wreak havoc on one's self-esteem. Plus, we all know I love liberal politics! Any book that teaches young people about the value of local economy is a worthwhile read, in my opinion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Claire (Book Blog Bird)

    This book was good in terms of characters (all of whom I loved) but pretty light on actual plot. I really liked Jesse and Emily’s utter self-delusion was so well observed. I’d never heard of this book but I’m really glad I read it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was meant as a throw-back to my various times of reading any sort of remotely lesbian literature I could find, especially if it included teenagers and/or baby-dykes. This one certainly hit the bill. I loved that it wasn't a coming out story; I've certainly read plenty of those, especially with teenage casts. It was lovely to read about a lesbian in high school who had been out for years--I don't read about that quite as often and I always love to because it's my story too, having come out a This was meant as a throw-back to my various times of reading any sort of remotely lesbian literature I could find, especially if it included teenagers and/or baby-dykes. This one certainly hit the bill. I loved that it wasn't a coming out story; I've certainly read plenty of those, especially with teenage casts. It was lovely to read about a lesbian in high school who had been out for years--I don't read about that quite as often and I always love to because it's my story too, having come out at 13/14 (bisexual-and-then-gay). I enjoyed the tale enough. It felt very high school in that not much actually seemed to be going on--let's face it, many high school experiences aren't extraordinarily plotty--but that it felt like a lot, with all these new feelings and realisations. It felt really organic for Jesse to be going from this activist-without-a-cause (not that Standing Up for the Weirdos isn't a cause, it's just not a very particular one, especially in high school) into an organised activist actually helping to host events. (And again, that may hit home for me because I went through a similar growth experience, although a bit earlier on.) I was thrown by Jesse's POV being in third-person while Emily and Esther's were in first. Esther's, at least, I enjoyed; Emily's drove me mad. (Having been more of a Jesse in school with no extra attraction to the Emily's, that sort of POV does have the tendency to vex me.) That said, I have come across more high-school-preppy characters that I've come to like anyway; Emily just drove me mad. She seemed set on ignorance and tried to flat-out manipulate Jesse; despite talking about being "soul mates" and things like that, she didn't seem to have much regard for Jesse at all when it came down to it. I quite enjoyed Esther, though, even if she was just another obvious stereotype. She was another one that I related to--I'm sort of an Esther/Jesse cross, and have been since mid-sophomore year (prior to that I was just a Jesse). I found her unflappable and quirky nature endearing. I loved her interactions with Jesse. Wyatt, as another stereotype, made me laugh; I had a Wyatt of my own once upon a time. Jesse's parents were glorious. I loved the bonding scenes over the bird-house, both her father and her mother. I wasn't as disappointed with the little-wrapped-up ending as I thought I would be. I would have liked to have known if their campaign against the Big Evil Corporation (which I kept reading as StarMarket instead of StarMart :B) was successful - but that would have dragged the book out for another long time. I liked seeing Jesse break it off with Emily without seeing if any new sort of relationship would form between Jesse and Esther (and I would be pleased either way). It's also very high school to have things NOT come together in this perfectly rounded story arc, so I didn't mind reading it that way. In the end it was a nice, quick and easy read with some substance and tender moments tucked inside even with the stereotypes, tropes and eye-rolling dialect. It's not a book I would go tell all my friends to read pronto, but if I saw one pick it up randomly and start flipping through, I'd smile.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was really disappointed with this book by Madeleine George. I was excited about a butch revolutionary protagonist in YA! I was looking forward to it for a long time, but I was pretty unimpressed pretty quickly. I thought Jesse's first few sections were funny and genuine but I think the narrative distance helps. Emily's first few sections read like self-aggrandizing diary entries. Unless the book is written in diary form, this is an annoying style of first-person narration. While I can appreci I was really disappointed with this book by Madeleine George. I was excited about a butch revolutionary protagonist in YA! I was looking forward to it for a long time, but I was pretty unimpressed pretty quickly. I thought Jesse's first few sections were funny and genuine but I think the narrative distance helps. Emily's first few sections read like self-aggrandizing diary entries. Unless the book is written in diary form, this is an annoying style of first-person narration. While I can appreciate that some teens hide their relationships out of concern for safety, I find the whole "bathroom romance" unbelievable and troubling. Not to mention hugely insensitive to the queer community given the history of arrests for "indecency" that occurred historically in public bathrooms. The fact that Emily wants Jesse to just stop talking (which Emily mentions early on and in the middle of the book) presents a hugely problematic portrayal of queer desire. Their "connection" is based on chemistry not on respect. Why Jesse put up with this for a year is beyond me! It's especially unbelievable given the strong moral and activist household her parents created. I really do not understand why George would spend 164 pages committed to such a limiting, disrespectful, and bizarre arrangement and then introduce violence into the "make out sessions." Emily as narrator writes "she bit me all over a little, hard and sharp. Like she was trying to leave marks." Not only do we have a disrespectful relationship that exists only in a public bathroom, but now Jesse is basically marking territory?! This scene does not read as the "romantic" introduction of "love bites." This reads as violence given that they characters have just had a fight that ended with sexual touching instead of communication. There is no way readers would accept this scene if Jesse were Emily's boyfriend Mike biting her to mark her after a fight so why are we asked to accept that this is how these two characters handle conflict? Why is Jesse not returning Wyatt's calls?? Oh right, a year of lying to her best friend who is actually out and open and would not at all support the bathroom drama. Then all of a sudden they're besties again, Jesse has a forced heart to heart with Mom, says she doesn't want to resume the "thing" with Emily but still loves her. Fantastic message for teens. Instead of walking away from someone who treats you poorly, makes you hide, and ignores you 6 days out of the week, you leave them with parting words of love and finally notice the person everyone in the book wants you to date. Disappointing. Poorly written. Hugely problematic. 1/5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Les

    Our library has this on their shelf of books recommended by staff, so I decided to try it. It's an interest story about the awkward relationship between 2 very different high school girls. Jesse is a lesbian who is out to her parents, who are both former activists (they met when they were being fingerprinted after being arrested at a protest). She is admittedly off-beat, cutting her hair with a Swiss Army knife and wearing b*tt-ugly green fisherman's boots every day. She is the sole member of the Our library has this on their shelf of books recommended by staff, so I decided to try it. It's an interest story about the awkward relationship between 2 very different high school girls. Jesse is a lesbian who is out to her parents, who are both former activists (they met when they were being fingerprinted after being arrested at a protest). She is admittedly off-beat, cutting her hair with a Swiss Army knife and wearing b*tt-ugly green fisherman's boots every day. She is the sole member of the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos (NOLAW) and prints manifestos about how the in-crowd should be more accepting of the students on the fringe. She attends the fall dance in a guy's tux (and the fishing boots) and meets Emily, her polar opposite. She is a hardworking over-achiever, with her time taken up with being student body vice president, library assistant, apprentice nursing program, studying Chinese, etc. She also has a boyfriend she has literally known her whole life, but somehow she and Jesse wind up kissing in the girl's bathroom. A year later, they still met clandestinely to kiss a couple of times per week working around Emily's schedule. No one else knows, including Emily's boyfriend. Despite Jesse's attempts to take things further, kissing is as far as it goes. Then Emily manages to talk her way into an internship with StarMart (WalMart look-alike). They were rebuffed in their initial attempt to build in this small town but are looking to regroup and try again. Emily suggests they buy goodwill by sponsoring the upcoming school fall dance and the athletic programs. When word gets out, Jesse and Emily find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. Jesse sees the loss of local small businesses and sweatshop jobs overseas. She joins a girl named Esther in mobilizing local protests against StarMart. Emily sees the financial benefits to the school (she's in charge of the dance) and their corporate donations to developing countries. Neither wants to hurt the other but they're also not willing to conceed on their beliefs. Can their secret relationship survive, or is it even worth trying given the gulf that has come between them? A little heavy on the anti-WalMart side. Jesse's side's arguments are always treated as rational, whereas Emily (and the school principal) only focus on how much the school is going to get out of the deal. In addition, Jesse's best friend's father is a corporate shill who is totally derogatory and insulting to Jesse and her group's concerns.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liviania

    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 a 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    2.5 stars It really upsets me to read a diverse book and not want to recommend it. More than any other book, I’m predisposed to love them and determined to find the good, but some don’t live up to my expectations. The Difference Between You and Me isn’t a terrible book. It tries really hard, and it’s about good things. Actually, I think part of it’s problem is that it tries too hard and ends up whacking you on the head with the message hammer. The anti-corporate and self-confidence messages are gr 2.5 stars It really upsets me to read a diverse book and not want to recommend it. More than any other book, I’m predisposed to love them and determined to find the good, but some don’t live up to my expectations. The Difference Between You and Me isn’t a terrible book. It tries really hard, and it’s about good things. Actually, I think part of it’s problem is that it tries too hard and ends up whacking you on the head with the message hammer. The anti-corporate and self-confidence messages are great, but, when the message is the best part, it means the story is lacking. The writing, characterization, and plot were pretty much meh across the board. There was an upturn right at the end, where the book ended in a way I didn’t expect. Other than that, the highlight was definitely the passionate kissing frequently engaged in by Emily and Jesse. The lowlight was that all three perspectives (Emily, Jesse, Esther) sounded exactly alike, despite the fact that Emily’s the only one in first person. Much as I want to encourage people to read all the LGBTQ+ books, I’d put this one pretty low down the list. There’s much better f/f out there now.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paula Gallagher

    I would be more inclined to give this one 2 1/2 stars. While this seems to be more Jesse's story, the chapters belonging to her are told in the third person. Jesse's the manifesto-writing paper-the-school lesbian activist-wannabe looking for equal human rights and acceptance. She's flawed, interesting and likable. Her downfall is the fair Emily, the overachieving student council vice president with a long term boyfriend. Emily gets to speak to the reader in the first person, and tell us all abou I would be more inclined to give this one 2 1/2 stars. While this seems to be more Jesse's story, the chapters belonging to her are told in the third person. Jesse's the manifesto-writing paper-the-school lesbian activist-wannabe looking for equal human rights and acceptance. She's flawed, interesting and likable. Her downfall is the fair Emily, the overachieving student council vice president with a long term boyfriend. Emily gets to speak to the reader in the first person, and tell us all about how hot she gets for Jesse, and how much she enjoys their secret makeout sessions in the library bathroom. And then there's Esther, the quirky protester who idolizes Joan of Arc, who just might be a better match for Jesse. Throw in a subplot where Emily courts a WalMart-type mega store to sponsor the school dance, and none of the relationship issues resolve in an overtly satisfying way. Emily's voice sounds a whole lot like Tracy Flick, driven protagonist of Tom Perrotta's Election. In other words, unoriginal.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    Very nice read. I enjoyed learning about all the three main characters trying to find their way through high school, growing into themselves. I did find the narrative choices odd. Different POVs for the different character sections, the book is told from the perspective of the three main characters, though mainly Jesse. Why were Emily's sections the only ones written in first person? I felt it was a disservice to that high-strung character to not get a more objective view of her. But I did enjoy th Very nice read. I enjoyed learning about all the three main characters trying to find their way through high school, growing into themselves. I did find the narrative choices odd. Different POVs for the different character sections, the book is told from the perspective of the three main characters, though mainly Jesse. Why were Emily's sections the only ones written in first person? I felt it was a disservice to that high-strung character to not get a more objective view of her. But I did enjoy this one. At times funny, at times awkward it got the feeling of being a teen and growing up right. I did wonder last night how these three girls will fare in the future and I must say I wondered about Emily most.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    More on the biphobia in this book at my blog More on the biphobia in this book at my blog

  19. 5 out of 5

    krispea

    I am not sure I can review this book. It's too sweet to review. I am not sure I can review this book. It's too sweet to review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    TheBookSmugglers

    Original review posted on The Book Smugglers It all started with Les Miserables. After watching the most recent adaptation of the musical, I felt I needed to learn more about the subplot involving Marius and his friends and thus proceeded to read about the student-led Paris Uprising of 1832. From there, I started to think about student-led rebellions and revolts in general and the year 1968 and its many students protests all around the world in particular. Then, I thought of how I read a lot of You Original review posted on The Book Smugglers It all started with Les Miserables. After watching the most recent adaptation of the musical, I felt I needed to learn more about the subplot involving Marius and his friends and thus proceeded to read about the student-led Paris Uprising of 1832. From there, I started to think about student-led rebellions and revolts in general and the year 1968 and its many students protests all around the world in particular. Then, I thought of how I read a lot of Young Adult novels and started to think about politics in YA and how Contemporary YA is a sub-genre full of students who could be all CHANGE THE WORLD, but how little of it seems to deal with politics at all – both in a wider philosophical context (everything is politics) and a narrow definition (actual social activism, political engagement, etc). That seemed weird to me, considering how current affairs make for great topics to be passionate about. I thought: maybe I am not reading the right things or paying enough attention. So I took it to Twitter (as one does), asking for recommendations for YA books with political plots and got quite a few recommendations and loads of shout outs for The Difference Between You and Me. So here we are. The Difference Between You and Me is exactly what I had in mind when I set out to ask for those recommendations and it is a prime example of how YA can delve in politics in complex, meaningful ways. The Difference Between You and Me is a book that explores political engagement in a variety of ways, both in the personal and public spheres. It’s a story with a dual narrative format with chapters more or less alternating between two girls: Jesse’s third person-present tense narrative and Emily’s first person narrative. Jesse and Emily are in love with each other and have a passionate, lustful relationship, meeting once every week in secret. It’s a very complicated relationship though: Jesse is out and proud and founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily is a closeted bi who feels she has much to lose if she comes out including her steady boyfriend and her position as vice-president of the student council. Jesse becomes more and more involved in social activism and participates in a protest against a Wall-Mart type big corporation that is threatening local shops. This happens just as Emily starts to work for said corporation hoping to engage their help with school activities and thus, they find each other on opposite sides. The two girls could not be more different – title reference! – but I thought really interesting the way that the story showed their differences as a complicated, complex thing rather than a dichotomous bad x good dynamics. In a way both girls are very similar – they are both awesomely ambitious and interested in activism and they go after what they believe in. Their differences lie in their motivations and their approach: there is the manner in which Emily goes about getting things done – her approach might not necessarily the best one in terms of how she does things (more or less in secrecy) and her motivation coloured by personal ambition which she hopes could eventually helps others. Jess is loud and passionate about equality and interested in public engagement of her ideas. She makes friends with Esther, a social activist who introduces her to a group of protesters widening the ways she can find political engagement. On the other hand, Jesse’s best friend Wyatt is not interested in politics at all – but his choice of being home-schooled, his choices of clothes are also a statement of his beliefs. My point here is to show how the book explores the idea that there are different ways to engage with politics, social activism and that things are …complicated and not black and white. I loved most characters (even the ones who were slighted less developed like Wyatt) but Emily’s narrative is the one that interested me the most here. As a closeted bi she is obviously not a good match for out-and-proud Jesse and the way the story develops shows this very firmly even as it portrays their angst over how despite everything, they desire each other so much (and the making out here is awesomely graphic and hot) . Emily’s narrative also clearly shows someone who is unaware of others and who is lying to herself all the time and I felt nothing but sympathy for her. There is one quote I’d like to include that is indication of her frame of mind: "I have one friend who has a small hand from birth and one other friend who’s a Muslim – she wears a head scarf and everything. At some schools those people might get teased or made to feel unwelcome, but at our school those kids are as welcome as any normal kids." She thoroughly believes that her school is inclusive and that there is nothing wrong about her being bi but she internally frames all of it from a normal x abnormal perspective and that’s the key to Emily’s character. This is a girl who is earnest and genuinely caring but at the same time so completely clueless and unaware of others that her narrative is almost painful to read especially when juxtaposed to Jesse’s more empathic outlook. I obviously have a very positive interpretation of Emily’s character and the way the story portrays their differences, and I saw her character as a very young queer who has a long way to go – and that is ok. I loved how the narrative does this in a way that shows that Emily’s choice is a valid choice for her and that not everybody feels safe or comfortable about coming out nor should they be expected to. I did not read Emily as the villain of the piece even though at times in comparison I felt the story set Jesse up as the main heroine – but this is definitely open for interpretation. There are though, significant flaws here. Some characters are very stereotypical and one-sided. There are two random chapters from Esther’s point of view that felt unnecessary. And even though I thought the writing was competent and realistic from a perspective of writing teens, the dialogue would at times, veer suddenly into teen-speak with a vengeance and it was rather off-putting: "I guess the thing we’re working on, “ she says, “was, like, trying to convince student council that we need to divest from StartMart. Like, we shouldn’t take their money and use it for school functions.” Mike has assumed a doglike listening posture, leaning in with his ear turned slightly in Jesse’s direction to catch her words. He nods eagerly. “So, like, if you know anyone on student council you could start there. Tell them you don’t want StarMart in our school. That’s one thing you can do. If you know someone.” Mike swallows uncomfortably. “I do, actually,” he says, “but it’s kind of like, really complicated? I can’t actually be public about this? Like, I really want to help, but I can’t help in school.” There is a balance to be struck between vying for authenticity and simply being annoying – this book walked a very fine line and sometimes that line was crossed. That said, I actually loved it and how it is all about social activism and the heartfelt relationship between these two great girls. And if you think of any other stories like this one? Please do share your recommendations.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Xanthe

    First of all, it’s terrible how long it has taken me to get around to reading this book. I’ve had it on my shelf for years and have loaned it out to several people, but it was never quite the right time for me to read it. So since it’s now June when I’m writing this, and Pride Month, seemed like as good as an excuse as any to bump this to the top of my list. The Difference Between You and Me left me with a mostly warm fuzzy feeling. Out-and-proud butch Jesse and closeted and bi Emily have been h First of all, it’s terrible how long it has taken me to get around to reading this book. I’ve had it on my shelf for years and have loaned it out to several people, but it was never quite the right time for me to read it. So since it’s now June when I’m writing this, and Pride Month, seemed like as good as an excuse as any to bump this to the top of my list. The Difference Between You and Me left me with a mostly warm fuzzy feeling. Out-and-proud butch Jesse and closeted and bi Emily have been having regularly scheduled make out sessions that no one else in their high school lives can ever know about. With this set-up, I was braced for a cringe-worthy discovery scene where they are outed to the whole school and embarrassed, but thank goodness the story never went there and instead dealt with questions of how to be true to oneself, how to fight for what one believes in even when you think you can’t really make any big changes. I am uncomfortable with how bi Emily is portrayed as cheating on her boyfriend by sneaking around with Jesse and being the most obviously self-deceptive in her first-person narration, which plays hard into negative stereotypes about bi people. Ultimately, I found this book uplifting as Jesse (in third person) negotiated her relationships with friends and family and discovered what she herself was willing to do fight injustice.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    The Difference Between You and Me is a queer high school story that isn't a coming-out story: Jesse Halberstam is a sophomore, and she's already been out as a lesbian for a year. She gets harassed at school because she's out and gay and butch and wears big clompy rubber fisherman's boots all the time. But that's not the center of the story, either. Jesse has a delicious secret: she's been having an ongoing affair (which involves hot make-out sessions in the out-of-the-way/never-used 3rd-floor ha The Difference Between You and Me is a queer high school story that isn't a coming-out story: Jesse Halberstam is a sophomore, and she's already been out as a lesbian for a year. She gets harassed at school because she's out and gay and butch and wears big clompy rubber fisherman's boots all the time. But that's not the center of the story, either. Jesse has a delicious secret: she's been having an ongoing affair (which involves hot make-out sessions in the out-of-the-way/never-used 3rd-floor handicapped restroom at the town public library) with Emily, who's a junior. There's a problem, though: Emily has a boyfriend, and isn't out as bi, if she even is bi: "I just don't believe in labels of any kind," she says. "Nowadays people can just be who they are, they don't have to define themselves in words" (17). Which is fine, when you pass as "normal" and don't have to deal with other people's labels and judgments of you. Emily insists that Jesse keep their relationship a secret, and barely acknowledges Jesse in public, but Jesse's so smitten (and the kissing is so good) that she goes along with it. But the desire they have for one another is basically the only thing Jesse and Emily have in common: Jesse papers the school with manifestos for her one person organization, NOLAW (National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos), and Emily is the student-council vice-president whose pet project, this year, is getting corporate sponsorship for the school's athletic teams and dances. The biggest sponsor Emily finds, and the one she's proudest of, is NorthStar Enterprises, a huge multinational corporation with a local office. NorthStar owns a chain of Walmart-like big-box retail stores, and also a chain of Sam's Club-like retail warehouse clubs—and they're trying to open a big-box store on the outskirts of town. When Jesse meets a freshman girl named Esther who's an anti-war activist, the two of them end up working together to oppose NorthStar/StarMart—and as Jesse speaks up against corporate badness, she also finds herself speaking up to Emily about how their "relationship" has been pretty shitty for her, delicious kissing aside. The book is told in alternating chapters—mostly alternating between Jesse and Emily, though there are some chapters centered on Esther, too. The style is a little weird, because Jesse's chapters are in the third person, while both Emily and Esther get first-person narration. The first chapter of the book, which is centered on Jesse, felt a little clunky or overwritten: Emily is putting her hair up, "quick as a samurai," opening her hand "wide as a starfish" to put a hair elastic around her ponytail (8). And Jesse's so entranced that it's "like watching a Cirque du Soleil gymnast flip ten times through the air and stick the landing" (9). Why is that "Cirque du Soleil" in there, why not just "gymnast"? Wouldn't Cirque du Soleil performers be more likely to be called "acrobats"? (OK, maybe I'm extra-critical on that particular topic.) The good news is, either things got less clunky or I got into the story enough not to care. And even in that first chapter there were great moments: I love this, about Jesse running into Emily and two other girls who are talking and doing their hair in the bathroom: It's like there's a mirror Emily on either side of the real Emily: hoodie hoodie hoodie, jeans jeans jeans, ponytail ponytail ponytail. In the center of the triptych, Emily stands looking at Jesse with terrible blankness, a perfectly placid unrecognition. It's like she's never seen Jesse before and doesn't much care that she's seeing her now. (10) Also great: this description from Emily of her boyfriend's kissing vs. Jesse's kissing: It's not his fault. He just gets really excited, like a dog. Like a sweet, slobbery golden retriever. When Jesse Halberstam kisses me, she's really focused and really intense. She puts her hands on the sides of my face to hold me where she wants me, or she winds her fingers up in my hair and tugs it tight, and somehow, just by the way she touches me, she makes my mouth open, she makes my eyes close, she makes me breathe faster and faster until I feel dizzy and think I might black out. (21) Emily mostly comes off as pretty unlikable, but when she's talking about desire, and even once when she's talking about how she revels in the secrecy of her relationship with Jesse, she's more appealing. And there are occasionally hilarious moments even when she's being unlikable, like when she's going on about how totally great it is that she has an unpaid internship at NorthStar: snort: The whole office is decorated with this series of beautiful framed posters with photographs of tranquil nature scenes above poetic messages about doing your best work and making the most of your opportunities. The one right above my desk has a picture of three flying geese silhouetted against this huge, violet-colored moon rising over a lake, and underneath the picture it says YOU CAN SOAR ONLY AS HIGH AS YOU BELIEVE THE SKY TO BE. I wrote this down on a Post-it note and stuck it on the inside cover of my homework journal for inspiration. (121-122)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Seema Rao

    Tl/dr: Two girls in high school have one love but two very different takes on politics Good: strong characters, charming details, sweet romance Bad: a little heartbreaking how the one out girl is strung along by the closeted kid Sweet light romance that is worth a read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesha

    Achingly, yes.

  25. 5 out of 5

    aubreads

    I wish there was more resolution at the end, but I really enjoyed this book. Direct queer representation throughout the book, and the varying perspectives were interesting. I would personally have loved to read all from Jesse's perspective, but that's probably just because I related to her the most. Commentary on corporations such as "StarMart," a clear Wal-Mart stand-in, and a lot of social justice action inspiring language. I wish there was more resolution at the end, but I really enjoyed this book. Direct queer representation throughout the book, and the varying perspectives were interesting. I would personally have loved to read all from Jesse's perspective, but that's probably just because I related to her the most. Commentary on corporations such as "StarMart," a clear Wal-Mart stand-in, and a lot of social justice action inspiring language.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Estelle

    Review first posted live on Rather Be Reading Blog -- For reasons I can’t completely grasp (even after I finished it a week ago), I felt strongly connected to Jesse and Emily’s relationship. At times, I wanted to just throw the book across the room because the dread, the ache, the excitement between the two was so real to me. It felt like I was experiencing it myself. That would be thanks to author Madeleine George, who I was delighted to find out is a playwright living right in my backyard (NYC) Review first posted live on Rather Be Reading Blog -- For reasons I can’t completely grasp (even after I finished it a week ago), I felt strongly connected to Jesse and Emily’s relationship. At times, I wanted to just throw the book across the room because the dread, the ache, the excitement between the two was so real to me. It felt like I was experiencing it myself. That would be thanks to author Madeleine George, who I was delighted to find out is a playwright living right in my backyard (NYC). It’s really no surprise. She writes with a stark simplicity that I quite liked and her character development was very strong. The plot moved at a reasonable pace, and every word seemed very deliberate. I’m not normally a fan of books that don’t offer a ton of dialogue but I found myself very intrigued with the inner thoughts of these characters. If I walked into any crowded room, I felt I could easily uncover Jesse and Emily, even if I hardly “heard” them speak. Jesse is the kind of character I love. She is brave. And while she has a strong sense of who she is, she is also incredibly flawed. This is important to me as a reader and a human being. Her secret hook-ups with Emily definitely start to take a toll. She worries about what this means about the kind of person she is. She’s falling for a person that her family may not approve of, someone who may not ever want to hold her hand in public. But she allows herself to dream that impossible dream, as so many of us do. No matter how painful the truth is, and how much deep down, we know what we might be doing is wrong. All of these emotions surrounding their relationship were so incredibly vivid, especially when we learn what Emily is feeling… or not. Emily is so proper, and so much about appearances and doing the right thing, I almost felt like she was campaigning to be the next President of the United States. She was not a person who let her guard down. She worried about moving forward and getting ahead, and taking charge and keeping things in order. So she must have felt really messed up that she was feeling such affection for Jesse and enjoyed making out with her. At times she even allowed herself to dream about making this relationship something more. I enjoyed those times because, otherwise, Emily came off as a cold person. And I could relate to Jesse feeling so crazed about the whole thing because the two didn’t communicate about their feelings, their fears, or what everything meant. (That would have made me crazy. I like to talk everything out and know what every move means.) So here we have these two characters narrating alternate chapters, and then Esther turns up. She and Jesse end up becoming friends, bonding over their mothers and accepting their differences and their interests in meaningful work. I liked her character, but I’m not sure of the conscious decision to give her 2 chapters out of the entire book. I felt we could have easily found out these tidbits about her from Jesse’s point of view for sure. Structurally, it didn’t work for me, and emotionally, I was more invested in Jesse and Emily especially once the Starmart conflict comes into play. Similarly to TESSA MASTERSON WILL GO TO PROM, we have another situation where a big business is attempting to take over local businesses. The catch? This is the same business Emily recruited to sponsor their latest school dance. Much comes into question for Emily and Jesse when this situation blows up at school. So much so that this conflict becomes the driving force behind the movement of the plot, and not so much their relationship – which I liked a lot. In the end though, and quite surprising to me, only one of these characters comes full circle in their journey. One character changes. I don’t necessarily agree with that decision. The ending certainly snuck up on me; I could have used more resolution in several aspects of the book. All in all, I love how this book was written, and I was more than happy to read an LGBT that chronicles the lives of 3 such different people. It teaches us that you can’t always choose who you love, and perhaps, it teaches us even more about acceptance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I would maybe rate this actually somewhere between two and three stars, though it's hard to say. It's a quick read and I don't feel like very much happened, but as we know, I am a sucker for all books about baby dykes. The blurb makes this sound like a love story, which it is not. And the trend of baby dykes falling in love with closeted straight girls is so sad and heartbreaking. Also, I am ALWAYS way more curious about the closeted straight girls than I am about the characters who are out. Or, I would maybe rate this actually somewhere between two and three stars, though it's hard to say. It's a quick read and I don't feel like very much happened, but as we know, I am a sucker for all books about baby dykes. The blurb makes this sound like a love story, which it is not. And the trend of baby dykes falling in love with closeted straight girls is so sad and heartbreaking. Also, I am ALWAYS way more curious about the closeted straight girls than I am about the characters who are out. Or, at least, to some degree. I LOVED Cameron Post, but I wanted to know what happened to Coley. Badly. Just, being so closeted must be the worst and it must be so hard to struggle with that and I am interested in it...maybe I'll have to write that book though. Anyway, Jesse is this young, out lesbian who wears combat boots and hates the Man. Emily is VP of the student council, wears J. Crew sweaters, and is generally as straight as you can get. Every week they make out in the handicapped bathroom at the local library. But then Jesse gets involved in a political cause that Emily is on the other side of and the two of them have to deal with it. (view spoiler)[The problem is, it's not very well fleshed out. Emily is...well, she's kind of a blind idiot. In fact, for most of her passages, I found her extremely difficult to sympathize with, considering she was fucking around with Jesse's feelings and her whole deal with NorthStar. The only times I felt for her was when she was describing the way she felt about Jesse. The other thing is, why were they even in love with each other? It's not like they talked. All they did was make out for once a week for a year. Which, okay, but I mean, I...would be bored after a year. Jesse's character is sympathetic but not original. Probably because Madeleine George is from Amherst. I recognize a Jesse anywhere. Essentially, I was bored by her. Also, Esther??? I don't really understand the role her character played. Was it supposed to be Manic Pixie Girl? She wasn't quite twee enough. I mean, undoubtedly she would treat Jesse better, but there's no indication of how she felt or whatever and she was supposedly "so weird". This book felt like it started off well and I was interested, but it ultimately culminated in a boring fashion. Too many loose threads, rubbish ending, and the characters fall flat of a promise. (hide spoiler)]

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth K.

    I liked this book okay, but it was one of those things where for a long time I thought I was reading a different book. What happens in this book: Jesse, an out yet very awkward and geeky and mostly a loner high school junior, is having a clandestine relationship with Emily, a popular student council type with a jock boyfriend. Jesse's parents are politically radical, liberal type folks, and this (I guess) makes it seem natural when she becomes friends with another girl at school, Esther, who is p I liked this book okay, but it was one of those things where for a long time I thought I was reading a different book. What happens in this book: Jesse, an out yet very awkward and geeky and mostly a loner high school junior, is having a clandestine relationship with Emily, a popular student council type with a jock boyfriend. Jesse's parents are politically radical, liberal type folks, and this (I guess) makes it seem natural when she becomes friends with another girl at school, Esther, who is passionately, and also geeky but comfortable with it, into social justice issues. Esther and Jesse join forces to protest the plans of a large box store (not named Walmart but it's Walmart, I imagine) to move into their small town. This pits them against Emily, who is trying to get the box store company to sponsor high school activities. The chapters rotate through the points of view of Jesse, Esther, and Emily. What I thought this book was going to be about: for some reason, maybe the title, for a long time into it, I was thinking this book was going to be about differences, and even the painful realization that it's possible other people have different views, opinions, and interests, and are in different places in their development, that present challenges to a relationship and that sometimes these differences are insurmountable. (view spoiler)[ What this book could have been titled: Why I'm a Better Person Than You Are. Which is something that also happens, sometimes people learn that the object of their affection is a terrible person. But there was something about the way this book handled the issue that was so finger-waggy. Emily is presented as a selfish twit, which is fine, but the whole package is sniggered at. Yes, she's a selfish twit for pretending not to know Jesse at school, but other aspects of her character, like enjoying her work on student council activities, is also presented as clear evidence of what a selfish twit she is. In the world of this story, student council is not a valid activity for anyone. Having average or mainstream interests is the sign of a weak character and substandard mind. If this element of the book had been handled in a more nuanced way I would have felt it was more of a four star read. It was still engaging, many of the other characters were still interesting, but wow, pedantic. (hide spoiler)]

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I was really unsure of what to do with this book. My main complaint is that it is written by someone who doesn't seem to value gender conformity much. But, she is still using words such as "manning". Why are we manning stations when we could be staffing stations? I do not understand. Parts of this book I loved, and parts of it just made me feel awkward. I saw myself in the main character quite a bit, and then in other parts not so much. I think because I didn't date anyone in high school and wasn I was really unsure of what to do with this book. My main complaint is that it is written by someone who doesn't seem to value gender conformity much. But, she is still using words such as "manning". Why are we manning stations when we could be staffing stations? I do not understand. Parts of this book I loved, and parts of it just made me feel awkward. I saw myself in the main character quite a bit, and then in other parts not so much. I think because I didn't date anyone in high school and wasn't overtly politically active in high school, it is hard to relate to. But the ideology is about right. The company is obviously a made-up company, but I can see how it has some pretty clear parallels to companies such as Wal-Mart and Target, who do underpay overseas workers and do give money to conservative politicians. I was irked about the conversation with Harold- it was like being in a Facebook flame war, but in my home, reading a book. I found it to be exhausting. I have also been in situations where I am being reprimanded by an authority figure for my viewpoints. I remember being in that place where you really think you can make a difference, and then later finding out that you can't, and that it was just a big waste of time. What I finally realized personally is that you can continue to be active on your own time, but if you want to make a big deal in public, you are just going to keep on losing friends. It is simply not worth it. I am also confused about why Jesse's chapters are all written in 3rd person and everybody else gets to speak in first person. It seemed kind of self-defeating, as she is the main character. My favorite character is Emily's boyfriend (I can't remember his name off hand). He's sort of an extra character in the beginning but really takes on his own personality in the end.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    For the past year, Jesse Halberstam, a rubber-boot-wearing social renegade, and Emily Miller, a J. Crew-sweater-wearing Student Council vice president, have been meeting every Tuesday for torrid makeout sessions in the library. Emily has a long-time boyfriend and insists on keeping the relationship a secret despite the fact that Jesse arouses her in a way that Michael, her boyfriend, fails to do. Then, too, worried about what others will say, Emily barely acknowledges Jesse in the high school ha For the past year, Jesse Halberstam, a rubber-boot-wearing social renegade, and Emily Miller, a J. Crew-sweater-wearing Student Council vice president, have been meeting every Tuesday for torrid makeout sessions in the library. Emily has a long-time boyfriend and insists on keeping the relationship a secret despite the fact that Jesse arouses her in a way that Michael, her boyfriend, fails to do. Then, too, worried about what others will say, Emily barely acknowledges Jesse in the high school halls. Luckily for Jesse, she has Wyatt, a friend who left high school to be homeschooled after severe bullying made it impossible for him to attend school. She also has two caring, liberal parents who accept her as she is, but worry about her future if she keeps getting in trouble at school. When Jesse meets Esther, whose hero is Joan of Arc, during an alternative to suspension program, the two unite over the attempts of StarMart, a chain store, to build a store in the area and its sponsorship of various high school events. This sponsorship, unbeknownst to Jesse, was brokered by Emily, and the two immediately clash over the issue and much more. The story is told from three perspectives--Emily's, Esther's, and Jesse's, but Jesse's chapters, oddly, are written from third person while the others are written from a first person point of view. By turns, hilarious, and at other points, heartbreaking, this title explores thoroughly the consequences of secrecy and not being true to yourself. In the end, as Jesse learns, perhaps the difference between you and me is a matter of how honest each one of us is willing to be.

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