Sandy Hall, A Little Something Different
When Gabe and Lea meet in a creative writing class at their university, sparks begin to fly instantly. Everyone can see it, from the creative writing professor to their fellow students to the baristas at Starbucks — everyone, that is, except Gabe and Lea themselves. They’re both shy and a little awkward, and Gabe is dealing with some trauma from his past, so it’s unsurprising that they have a hard time interpreting each other’s mixed signals. Still, everyone else can see that they’re crazy about each other, and that’s why this novel is told from everyone else’s point of view. Parts of the story are variously told by Gabe’s brother, Lea’s roommate, the aforementioned baristas, a waitress at the local diner, and even a squirrel who lives on campus; in fact, the only characters who don’t address the reader directly are Lea and Gabe. Despite their mutual crush, will they ever be able to get together? And if not, how will their friends, acquaintances, and random observers cope with the disappointment?
This book is a sugary confection that I devoured in one sitting. At bottom it’s a classic boy-meets-girl story, but the various narrators provide an interesting twist on the tale. Overall, I was impressed with the author’s ability to switch between voices so skillfully. A couple characters were difficult for me to distinguish (particularly Gabe’s group of friends), but it was generally easy to keep everyone straight. (It doesn’t hurt that each new perspective is clearly marked with the character’s name and function, such as “Inga, Creative Writing Professor.”) I didn’t love every single perspective — the narratives from “squirrel” and “bench,” in particular, seemed unnecessary — but the author interview at the back of the book revealed that she had about twice as many narrators in the initial draft! So at least she cut back a little. 🙂 I also found it interesting to tell a love story in this way, giving everyone a voice except the two main characters; it seems to reflect a voyeuristic element in our culture (reality TV, social media, etc.). Ultimately, this is an adorable little romance with a cute gimmick attached, and I really enjoyed it!
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