Exploring LGBT Themes in YA Lit & Everyday Library Life

Release Date: 15 March 2012
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 8 & up

Jesse stands out at her high school.  With her fisherman’s boots, self-done haircuts, and no nonsense attitude, she almost revels in her outsider status, not caring how the world sees her.  She has no secrets–except Emily.  Emily is you typical star student with her good grades, student government leadership position, and career-woman internship–but Jesse is her secret.  Their secret rendezvous in the library bathroom are a happy moment for both of them, but Emily has a boyfriend and an image to maintain that an entanglement with Jesse would upheave. However, Jesse is starting to grow up and she wants more than a secret library bathroom romance…if you can call it a romance.  They may very well be in love, but their secret and their political viewpoints are tearing them apart. In a quirky story of growing up and learning to respect yourself, Madeleine George has woven a tale of what’s it’s like to be “out” in high school and to come to learn to have the respect for yourself not to hide behind false pretenses.  The Difference Between You and Me offers a good perspective on friendships, acquaintances, and family relationships without every seeming to beat you over the head with a preachy message. The alternating POVs at times seem disjointed due to shifts between first and third person narrative and may detract from the enjoyment of some readers.

The Difference Between You and Me brings an interesting perspective on contemporary romance to the table.  The main character, Jesse, is already out as gay and has been for quite some time.  That fact in itself was refreshing because it turned the table on the story from being a coming-out narrative to a relatable growing-up narrative.  While the story is told from the point of views of both Jesse and Emily, Jesse comes solidly to the forefront as the main character with the most change throughout, while Emily refuses to come out of the closet (or the bathroom, as the case may be) and upset her perfectly crafted image.  Both girls offer the reader a perspective on being gay or bisexual in high school and the personal decisions and potential upheaval associated with that revelation.  Jesse’s family dynamic is worth mentioning as well because this story lacks the absentee parents that are often portrayed in YA fiction.  Jesse’s parents are very much a part of her life, helping her through difficult moments and punishing her when appropriate.  Overall, this was a fun, quirky read but it may need a little TLC and promotion to move off your library shelves as the cover isn’t likely to do it all on its own.

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