Evie is different. Not just her upbringing-though that’s certainly been unusual-but also her mindset. She’s smart, independent, confident, opinionated, and ready to take on a new challenge: The Institution of School.
It doesn’t take this homeschooled kid long to discover that high school is a whole new world, and not in the way she expected. It’s also a social minefield, and Evie finds herself confronting new problems at every turn, failing to follow or even understand the rules, and proposing solutions that aren’t welcome or accepted.
Not one to sit idly by, Evie sets out to make changes. Big changes. The movement she starts takes off, but before she realizes what’s happening, her plan spirals out of control, forcing her to come to terms with a world she is only just beginning to comprehend.
This is a light, refreshing story, one I enjoyed reading, though parts did get a bit too melodramatic towards the end.
Evie was a protagonist I ultimately liked, though my positive feelings towards her did lessen as the story progressed. She is confident, cheerful, stands up for herself and has a strong moral compass, but there were times when she came across as judgmental and condescending (in regards to her, and her mother’s, way of life, how she views the rest of the student population etc) and often she was very naive and foolish (her actions concerning PLUTO come to mind).
I also really liked her mum and their close relationship (something of a rarity in YA fiction), though sometimes she was a bit too ditzy. I wanted her to set some boundaries with Evie, as it was clear she could have used some guidance, not to mention exposure to some other points of view. What struck me was that Evie believes herself to be well-educated and a liberal but she still has a very closeted view of the world. In that way she was a very realistic teenager. Evie, once in school, immediately starts fighting the system, jeopardising her dreams and academic future and there were many times while reading that I didn’t necessarily feel she was actually in the right. At other times I felt she was just arguing for the sake of it. Everything was an injustice (for example her obsession over the use of mobile phones in school). There is such a thing as choosing your battles, and while I can applaud Evie for standing up against the more serious, important issues that crop up in this book, I can’t help but think that, in reality, she would be a very tiring person to be around! My favourite character was actually the headmaster, Dr. Folger, who shows Evie there are other sides to consider and better ways to bring about change (and I amused myself imagining a relationship between him and Evie’s mother).
This Girl is Different focuses a lot on environmental issues, healthy free-range living and so on, which ordinarily would put me off but I found it was integrated into the story well and didn’t feel overly preachy. Instead it provided a new (for me) backdrop and gave the whole story a pretty unique, refreshing tone. This Girl is Different also brings up some important points on sexism and equality which was great to see and can sometimes be lacking in YA.
There was however, an inappropriate teacher/student relationship story line that I don’t feel was handled very well. This story has a very light, easy feel to it, so sadly, it is never seriously explored. The danger, the emotional manipulation and the repercussions of this type of relationship, is only hinted at and briefly brushed upon before being resolved or forgotten, which was a great shame and had the author chosen to look into this plot line properly it would have given the story some weight and made a far more compelling, grown up and touching read.
In the fight for what she feels is right, Evie ultimately takes things a step too far and learns that perhaps she doesn’t yet know everything and that life is not as black and white as she sees it. This is a refreshing coming-of-age story, and I felt Johnson handled Evie’s transition into confident home-schooler to bewildered high-schooler, out of her depth, well. I did feel that everything was a bit too perfectly (not to mention too easily) wrapped up in the end. This Girl is Different is a fun read, not to be taken too seriously. There were a few too many clichés and an overly cheesy romance but it was nice to see a pretty healthy, normal teenage relationship for once with no life or death situations attached. I really enjoyed This Girl Is Different until about 2/3rd of the way through, then some major drama started and everyone went a little too insane for me.
Not a favourite, but definitely, as the time title suggests, something a bit different.
*Many thanks to Peachtree Publishers and NetGalley for making this ebook available*