The first I heard of Madeleine George’s The Difference Between You and Me was on Malinda Lo’s blog. Basically, I will read anything she recommends. She’s never steered me wrong.
Jesse — I love Jesse because I were her. Or at least I feel like I was her. Even though I didn’t cut my hair with a Swiss Army knife– I wanted too. I wish I had been so brave as her to come out to her family at age 14. She’s lucky to have a very supportive family, that still occasionally drive her a little nuts. I love Jesse because I sometimes still feel like an outsider. And I love Jesse because, like everyone, I’ve been in love with the wrong person.
Emily — I wanted to hate Emily, I really did. All through the book she drove me crazy. I wanted to yell at her. I wanted to not like her. But I couldn’t quite do it. I couldn’t quite hate her because it is so clear that she’s simply clueless. She doesn’t mean to be a bitch. She just has no ability to see Jesse’s point of view. She sees the world in a completely different way. We’ve all known people like Emily, and some of us were once a little in love with her.
Esther — Esther only narrates a few chapters, but we get a very clear sense of who she is. She’s a good friend, an enthusiastic over achiever that I couldn’t help seeing a little of myself in. She’s that easy going friend we all need who doesn’t add drama to our lives.
Wyatt — Wyatt is the Best Gay. I saw a lot of my Best Gays in Wyatt. A little self absorbed, as all teenagers/people are, I felt bad for him even while I sided with Jesse. Like all Best Gays he is there when she needs him, which is really what counts.
One thing I found fascinating was that Emily and Esther’s chapters are narrated in first person and Jesse’s are narrated in third person. It really worked. It added to the feeling that Emily was so completely self-absorbed and Jesse was both an outsider and someone who was trying to interact with the world around her.
Jesse loves Emily. Emily has a boyfriend. Emily and Jesse spend 15 minutes every Tuesday making out and are clearly incredibly attracted to each other, but Emily doesn’t acknowledge her outside their “secret space” and Jesse, knowing she’s being taken advantage of, doesn’t feel she can tell anyone either. Enter a conflict over a company that Emily wants to champion and Jesse wants to protest and general teenage drama and confusion.
I loved how honest the writing was. The characters all had their own voice and spoke like teenagers do with all the ‘like’ and ‘obviously’ and ‘seriously’ that real teenagers say. I also love how Jesse’s queerness is just another part of her and not the whole focus of the story. Coming Out stories are important and have their place in YA lit, but it’s nice to meet a character who is queer and out and fine with that. It’s nice to meet a character whose family is fine with her being queer. Jesse has many qualities and that happens to be one of them. Emily isn’t struggling over her sexuality either, she’s just a little blind and stupid. And I love that.
I also LOVED the ending. I won’t give too much away, but about 5 chapters out I found myself wondering how George was going to get everything wrapped up in a neat bow. The answer being that she doesn’t tie everything up in a neat bow. Jesse brings some resolution in a decision she makes, but we are left knowing that the future for these characters will continue to be just as messy and confusing as real life. I love that. I love endings that feel real and not contrived.
All in all– A+++ for The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George