Sweet, tender, and true! – Laurie Halse Anderson 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
The Short of It: I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. I was hoping for a good love story, but the book is more about big corporation take-overs than romance. It’s a bit preachy, but overall a decent read.
Plot: Teen activists? Check. Secret Romance? Check. Potential big corporation take over? Check. I had hoped, okay maybe longed for, this one to be all about romance. Instead, I got a political fight of a smaller-ish town against StarMart (a big chain store). Jesse has been doing her own manifestos for about a year encouraging her fellow classmates to embrace their weirdness and let it shine for all the world to see. It’s when she gets in trouble and ends up in Saturday school that Ester pulls her into bigger things…including taking down StarMart. While there is some romance sprinkled in, it’s more about standing up for what you believe in, even if its an unpopular opinion. While a little preachy I enjoyed the overall message.
I did feel like some of the side stories got lost in the bigger whole of the story like the romance, the family, and even her best friend. I would have loved to see those issues get a bit more page time, but I do understand that they weren’t the main story. However, some of it felt like an after thought or an easy way to move the story along, especially the stuff with Esther and her family. I may be nitpicking a little, but it was still something I thought should be mentioned.
Characters: While the book alternates between Jesse, Emily, and occasionally Esther, the book is really about Jesse. The other POVs offered insight to what the other girls were thinking, but it was Jesse who truly stood out. From her fisherman boots to her manifestos, Jesse was someone you couldn’t forget.
On the outside, Jesse looked like someone who had it all together, but she really didn’t. She was a normal girl trying to figure out who she really was. While she had some bold moves, especially with Emily and her manifesto, Jesse is huge people-pleaser. She was very cautious about upsetting/crossing lines with Emily and apologizes if she goes “too far”. Even with the activist stuff, I don’t think she was truly into it at first, but let herself be dragged into it because it would make Esther (and her mom a little) happy. By the end, though, Jesse is more comfortable with her she is and standing up for what she thinks is right. While I had hoped for a slightly different ending, I was happy with how Jesse handled things, especially with Emily.
Romance: Emily and Jesse? I get it. I honestly do. I get the falling for a girl who is absolutely 100% wrong for you, yet someone you have great chemistry with. You think about if only this or that would change it would be perfect and you hold onto the hope that it’ll happen. It’s a trap that is easy to fall into and I can’t blame Jesse at all. That being said, I disliked Emily so much. She treated Jesse like crap from beginning to end. I hated how she whined that Jesse didn’t listen to her when she didn’t listen to Jesse either. She thought that everyone should agree with her end of story.
The thing I hated the most though, was the secret part of it. Emily would talk about how Jesse made her feel alive, how she missed her, and dreamed of Jesse saying I love you, yet she wasn’t willing to take the risk with her. I understand it’s hard to shatter people’s image of you, but I felt like she was essentially just using Jesse. She had no plans to break up with her boyfriend, not really, and just wanted the 15 minute-a-week thrill Jesse gave her. Part of me wished that Emily would have a change of heart, but I suppose that just the romantic side of me talking.
On the other hand, I’m not sure Esther and Jesse quite worked either. Yes, they shared a lot of the same ideas and views, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between them as much. Could I see them ending up together? Yes, but I think it’ll be awhile before they reach that point. Of course, I’m still not sure if Esther is into girls or not. I felt like the attention that she gave Jesse had more to do with pulling someone her age into her causes than true attraction.
Writing: I don’t know why, but having Emily and Ester in first person and Jesse in third person bothered me. I would have preferred it to be the other way around, since this book was more Jesse’s story than the other two girls. However, the third person POV is still quite intimate and I didn’t notice the switch until I was about a third of the way in. Having it set up as George does, doesn’t take away from the book. While it did bug me, I doubt most people will have the same reaction.
Librarian-Mode: This one depends on what you’re looking for. Want a secret romance, try The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard or Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. If you want more LGBTQ, I would suggest Pink by Lili Wilkinson, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, or Empress of the World by Sara Ryan.
So, now it’s your turn…have you read The Difference Between You and Me? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.