The fact that science fiction and books with complex, interesting themes are blowing up the YA market makes me excited. I think teenagers and regular readers of YA absolutely deserve smart books that will make them question and make them think. The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist is one of those smart books — while I had a few issues with it, I think that overall it’s worth checking out if you want your synapses firing.
Veronika is one of five ‘girls’ who live on an island with two caretakers. Veronika and the other four girls lost their parents when they died in a plane crash. It is important to note that all five girls look identical except they have different colored hair. Each day the girls have lessons and take walks where their observations are questioned and recorded by one of the caretakers. One day, while on a walk Veronica finds a strange bundle — it turns out to be a human girl who has been washed up on the shoreline, alive. Y’all, the girl freaks out and we learn something interesting about Veronika and her sisters. Of course, more things happen and omg the island is in potential danger.
The main point of view character in The Different Girl is Veronika. Veronika is obviously different from you or me, yet she does share a few characteristics in common with us. For one thing, although Veronika cannot dream, she does have the ability to make choices and decisions. Her sisters do not have that ability. Yet, I felt kind of distant from Veronika the whole time reading, probably because she’s weird and not entirely warm or obviously human. And so, it was hard for me to really rally behind her character.
The human girl they find, May, is a lot more compelling. I was kind of disappointed that she wasn’t the main point of view character. May is completely different from anyone the other girls on the island have met before. May is bold and impulsive and sometimes reckless. Plus, she comes from the world outside which is totally in shambles. Further, May is terrified of Veronika and the sisters at first, but then we see a pretty well done building of trust.
Maybe I am just slow on the uptake, but I thought the world building was kind of all over the place. Maybe it was on purpose though. As I said above, The Different Girl is set on an island, which feels kind of claustrophobic. You don’t know anything about what is going on in the outside world until May washes up. Even then, we just get brief glimpses of the chaos. I have no idea if the world is modern like ours. I don’t know what the governments look like. None of that, and to be very honest with you all those are elements that I look forward to reading about, so I kind of felt meh about the whole island setting with brief glimpses of the world at large.
Unfortunately, I felt as though The Different Girl was very slow paced. I felt little connection with Veronika and so I was hardly motivated to turn page after page. Honestly though, the writing is competent and there are a lot of big ideas here about what makes someone human, etc. The Different Girl is BRILLIANT, however, I also thought it was boring. I know, I know. I think maybe if you are very smart and want to read a book for it’s overarching philosophical ideas then you are going to love The Different Girl. If you are like me and just want interesting characters, action and swoons, then yes, you’ll probably find yourself bored stiff.
Disclosure: Received For Review Via Netgalley
Other reviews of The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist:
Reading Rants – “a fascinating puzzle of a book”