Author: Sandy Hall
Published: August 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
“The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together…” (from Goodreads)
A Little Something Different was just that, a little something different. It is definitely one of the most unique ways of storytelling that I’ve seen, and in that way, reminded me of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Despite the defining selling point of multi-perspective story telling, the plot wasn’t very compelling. I didn’t find myself agonizing over the pair of characters not being together. Call me backwards, but I think the mark of a good romance is often measured by how much agony I feel when a pair of characters isn’t a couple! A Little Something Different is short and sweet, and made for an enjoyable read, but I didn’t “ship” Lea and Gabe as much as their friends, peers, professor, and other characters did.
I think what helped make this book cute and adorable was less so the main couple-to-be itself, and more so how much the 14 people (and animals & object) wanted that couple to be together. My favourite perspectives were that of the creative writing professor playing matchmaker, and their classmate Victor-the-reluctant-shipper. The shifts between perspective was impressively smooth. Single scenes often began with one character’s point of view and ended with that of another’s. Some perspectives have more weight in the story than others, depending on the frequency of their interactions with Gabe and Lea. For example, while the perspectives of Gabe and Lea’s roommates crop up in every chapter, the perspective of the Chinese food delivery guy only shows up twice. Each character has their own background and connection to Gabe or Lea, but they are all share one thing in common, which is their investment in seeing Gabe and Lea get together. I mean, they all essentially do this the whole time:
Halls’ story gets a huge thumbs up for showcasing diverse characters, because representation matters. Since reading more books with diverse characters is one of my reading goals in 2015, I’m glad I got to start off the year with one such book! Something else I would like to pay attention to while reading this year is whether or not a book passes the simple Bechdel test.
The Bechdel test was first devised in relation to movies, and is a way to critique the representation of women in film. It goes like this: Two women must exist who speak to each other about something other than a man. Passing the Bechdel test doesn’t mean that a film, TV show, book or otherwise, has an acceptable quality of representation of women. Nor is the Bechdel test a marker of a good or bad film. However, the sheer simplicity of the test, and the surprising majority of works that don’t meet this test, means that the Bechdel test is a way to critique representation in an industry such as publishing.
Does A Little Something Different pass the Bechdel test? No, it doesn’t. None of the women in the story have a conversation with other women without mentioning Gabe. An important thing to note is that the guys in the story also rarely speak about anything other than Lea. However, I do remember one important conversation about Gabe, romance aside, are discussed, but between male characters.
I thought this was a nice, sweet read, that is a great example of multi-perspective storytelling. If you find yourself needing a respite from your latest dark, emotionally draining read, borrow this from your local library!
Featured Image Credit: Swoon Reads/Macmillan Publishing