The Difference Between You and Me

The Difference Between You and Me

Her kisses are perfect, her pearl-button sweaters are adorable, but the way that Emily compartmentalizes her life bugs Jesse. Of course, it’s complicated because she’s second-fiddle to Emily’s boyfriend, and Emily’s work as Student Council VP, and Emily’s upcoming internship with NorthStar…

Jesse’s parents accept her orientation, although they’re not so happy about her frequent detentions for plastering the high school with posters for NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. They think she has a crush on earnest young activist Esther when the girls attend their town’s weekly peace vigil together. Honestly…

Her buddy Wyatt has to contend with his anti-gay father while trying to keep his homeschooling on track so that he doesn’t have to go back to their high school; he and Jesse keep each other real. So why hasn’t Jesse ever told him about her weekly rendezvous with Emily?

Emily cannot understand why the Student Council won’t let NorthStar be the sole sponsor of their dance. Just because the corporation might bring a huge StarMart to town, might endanger all the small businesses, might…might…might!

When should financial gain win out over doing the right thing? How far can you go to protect your community without resorting to violence? How do you decide when a relationship is over?

Alternating chapters by Jesse and Emily weave together a story that’s more than physical attraction and much more than your average StuCo meeting.

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA – blogging young adult books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com

+++++++

"Light a candle, curse the glare" --  Hunter/Garcia

"'This is a conversation,' Jesse's father says, 'about what happened at school today.'

"'I don't really feel like having a conversation about what happened at school today,' Jesse shrugs.

"'Well, you're gonna,' snaps her mother. Jesse's father lays a restraining hand lightly on his wife's arm.

"'Sweetheart,' he says to Jesse, 'It's not that we don't respect your feelings about pep rallies--'

"'Pep rallies revolt me,' Jesse interrupts.

"'And we respect that. You have every right to those feelings. But handling those feelings by crawling through a bathroom window--'

"'Unsuccessfully,'  her mother points out.

"'Handling  those perfectly legitimate, valid feelings by crawling through a bathroom  window, sweetheart, is a maladaptive coping strategy that--'

"'Shrinkydink.'  Jesse cuts him off.

"'I'm sorry, I'll rephrase.' Her father has agreed not to use terms from his family therapy practice with his daughter except in extreme emotional emergencies. 'By  choosing this way of handling your feelings you...you complicated things, you  made things harder on yourself, you--'

"'You screwed up,' her mother interrupts, impatient. 'Is this NYU-bound behavior? This bathroom-window Keystone Kops routine?'

'''Fran'  Now Jesse's father lays his hand on his wife's shoulder, but she shrugs it off. "'I'm pissed, Arthur, I don't want to be calmed down, I want to be angry!'

"'I hear you, but--'

"'What were you thinking?' Fran stares her daughter down. 'I hate to have to say that, it's such a parenting cliche, but what on earth was going through your  mind at that moment?'

"Jesse takes a deep breath and presents her case.

"'Pep rallies revolt me. I refuse to attend them and in this quote unquote free country I shouldn't have to. I can't believe I have to explain this to you guys!  Pep rallies are fascist demonstrations of loyalty and I am not loyal to my school. I hate my school. I'm the opposite of loyal to it. If I wouldn't end up in jail, I would blow it up.'

"'If you wouldn't end up in jail, blowing it up wouldn't be much of a principled statement,' Fran observes. She's a lawyer; she can't resist a counterargument.

"'I'm curious about why we're talking about the violent destruction of property all of  a sudden,' asks Arthur. "'Because apparently your daughter is an incipient terrorist!' Fran shouts, turning on her husband. 'And not, I might add, a particularly competent one.' Jesse looks down at her lap, stung. "'I'm sorry,' Jesse's mother flushes red. She gives Jesse a look of sincere apology.  'I'm sorry, honey. I'm sure if you were a terrorist, you'd make a wonderful one.'"

In turns hysterically funny, deeply sensual, patently absurd, and painfully  anguishing, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME sports one of those covers that is fully interchangeable with any number of contemporary teen novels. But this is  one of those SAVING FRANCESCA-sort of books: one whose brilliant plotting and dialogue elevate it a million miles above the chick-lit genre with which a book  like this could -- from the cover -- be so easily but quite mistakenly grouped.

Emily: "But  to be honest, at that point I was getting pretty annoyed with some of the people  working under me on the refreshments committee (like Lauren Weiss and Kim Watson  and Kimmie Hersh, to name three) because they kept putting out more and more Costco-brand cheese curls, which were the only refreshments we were serving that  night, even though I told them repeatedly that they had to ration the snacks so  they would last for the entire event, and all of a sudden I was just like, you  know what, screw this, let them put out however many cheese curls they want,  whenever they want to. And I told Michael I had to use the restroom and I went to find Jesse."

Yup.  Jessie Halberstam, author of student manifestos and fashion-challenged lesbian, an ultimate high school outsider, and Emily Miller, the girl of the uber-popular boyfriend and heralded participant in all sorts of school and community functions, an ultimate high school insider, are in an intensely passionate, utterly secret relationship.

But what happens when Jesse is humiliated by Emily's popular friends in the girl's  room, right in front of Emily, who cannot say a word? And what happens when Jesse becomes a leader in opposing corporate sponsorship of school dances and sports teams by a predatory big box discount chain that has actually been recruited for this purpose by politically-clueless Emily?

Author Madeleine George crafts an awesome tale that avoids the pitfalls of the overly-campy and the overly-sincere. Despite the significant issues that underlie the story, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME is anchored firmly in freshness and sweetness and honesty and humor, making it an absolute joy to read.  272 pages

Recommended by Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California, USA Visit his blog at: Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com

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