This girl is Different is a debut YA novel by JJ Johnson. I got it in the mail just yesterday and was delighted with the way it looked. The cover art is beautiful, well-thought-out and it relates to the story inside in many ways. The texture of the dust cover and the way the pages are numbered are very unique and truly different from other YA books I've read so far.
The heroin of this story, seventeen-year-old Evie, is anything but ordinary teenager. Being home schooled by her counterculture mother, she never really experienced how public schools work, never had to put herself out there and try to become part of society, never even had to pick up a textbook and study from it. She's different than other girls (and boys) her age, she doesn't wear make-up, she lives in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature, she draws snakes and other animals and she builds scale models of cities, communities, villages and buildings. Evie and her mom seem to be very environmentally conscious, they get their electricity from solar panels, they grow their own vegetables, keep their own chickens and a cow, and they even bake their own bread at home.Their house is a geodesic Dome Home, which they built themselves. Obviously, not your typical American (or any other for that matter) family. Evie is a well-read girl with a strong moral spine and a pretty good idea of what she wants to do with her life. And what she wants right now is to get a first-hand experience with the Public School system, so she enrolls in a local high school for her senior year.
Just when the school year is about to start, Evie goes for a hike in the nearby woods and sprains her ankle while trying to catch a snake. Stranded 5 miles deep into the wilderness and not being able to call for help, she's lucky enough to be found by two young hikers. Her "non-rescuers" (she does not perceive herself as a damsel in distress, and therefore does not feel the need to actually be rescued), are, as it turns out, her future school mates, Rajas and Jacinda. The three of them are very comfortable with each other from the very start and they quickly become close friends.
But there's more to the story than just Evie's social experiment and her experiences at school. Things get more serious when our heroine witnesses teachers abusing their power and being unfair toward students. Evie being herself, she can't just ignore the social injustice and she takes it upon herself to do something to bring changes to her school. Together with Rajas and Jacinda they start PLUTO (People's Lightning to Undermine True Opposition), an anonymous organization, whose purpose is to fight for respect, freedom and student rights. To bring attention to the inequality in the school, PLUTOs post a lightning bolt on the person's door/locker, and then they discuss the reasons for being "stricken by the lightning" on PLUTO's blog. Unfortunately, despite PLUTO's best intentions, things quickly snowball out of control, as the lightning strikes are being posted no longer only by PLUTO members, and no longer only truly "deserving" people are being targeted. Things are about to go very, very wrong...
This Girls is Different is an amazingly refreshing and unique read. It deals with some important issues, like social injustice, power abuse, bullying, teacher-student relationships, etc., and yet it doesn't have the heaviness and slowness one would expect from a book like that. I was immersed in the story from the very opening words and wasn't able to put this book down, until 320 pages later, when I hit the back cover. I literally swallowed the book in one bite and, even though I was perfectly satisfied with the way the story played out, I still found myself wanting more. More of the world seen through Evie's eyes, more of JJ's excellent writing style, more of the fantastic chemistry between Rajas and Evie, more, more, more!
One of my favorite highlights of this book were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter. JJ Johnson did a great job picking them, they related to the chapters in a special way and made it so much more fun to read them.
Honestly, I find it very hard to believe that what I just read was a debut novel. I look at some writers who have been writing for years now and they still have no hope of reaching JJ Johnson's level of writing skills. Her storytelling is superb! I have no doubt that I will be re-reading this book many times in the future. Books like this one make me want to add a sixth star to my five star rating system!show more