Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist

Veronika's life is simple. Every day is the same - she and her sisters are woken up by Irene, they take a walk, they discuss what they learned with Robbert, they take a nap, they help fix dinner, and they go to bed. Sometimes they walk together, sometimes they walk in separate places. But every day is essentially and simply the same... until May arrives. Other than Robbert and Irene, May is the first person Veronika and the others have ever seen. And though Veronika, Caroline, Eleanor, and Isobel are all alike - with the exception of the color of their hair - May is different. They long to know more about this new girl and where she comes from, but May's life is complicated and, as they soon learn, dangerous. For Robbert and Irene, May's arrival also means facing the one thing they've always feared - the possibility they'll be discovered by other outsiders.

Gordon Dahlquist has long been on my favorites list thanks to his exceptional debut, The Glass Books of the Dream EatersThe Different Girl is Dahlquist's first teen release and while I'm a definite fan girl - and therefore not the most objective reader in this case - I found it to be equally as fabulous as Glass Books. I also thought it was kind of perfect for both adult and teen audiences. I think others will be just as impressed.

The story is unique in that much of it is left unsaid. Veronika is perfect as a narrator but she is unaware of a lot of the details about the world she lives in - and so those details are only touched upon through things she observes and hears. We do glean from the narrative the fact that this is a world that has certain prejudices against technology. The girls are kept secret and the urgency with which Robbert and Irene guard them is supported through their actions. Veronika is also unique amongst the other girls, testing boundaries the others never really consider until May arrives.

The story walks a fine line with just enough missing information to intrigue readers rather than frustrate them. I'm sure there will be others who feel differently, but for me it was the perfect balance. To be fair, Dahlquist is kind of a master at weird stories in my opinion, so I did expect something a bit outside of the box in this latest. I wasn't let down. The Different Girl is most definitely going down as one of my favorite reads this year!

Rating: 5/5

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