Friday, January 11, 2013

The Different Girl - Book Review

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist is sort of a sci-fi mystery. Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor are four identical girls except for the color of their hair. They live on an island with their teachers and caretakers Irene and Robbert. Everything is normal and carefree until a new girl washes ashore after a storm. The new girl is different and sets Irene and Robbert on edge. Veronika (the story's narrator) and the other three girls try to figure out who this new girl is, where she came from, and just what is going on on the island.

The premise sounded interesting, so I was excited to receive a galley copy of the book to review from Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). The reason I received a galley copy is because the book doesn't come out until February 21, so the book is still going through final edits. The design, artwork, page length, and format are subject to change.

This is a book that will keep your interest if only because the author doesn't tell you much, so you're constantly flipping the page thinking, "Why did this happen? What is going on?" This book is for ages 12 and up, but I think the story and lack of information might turn off most kids at that age. I can just hear our middle school book club kids now: "This book was weird." Fourteen year olds, on the other hand, may have the patience to get through some of the more frustrating passages, such as when Robbert asks the girls to describe a picture of a parrot in a cage in one word:

"Parrot," said Isobel.
"Cage," said Caroline.
"Feathers," said Eleanor.
"Prison," I said.
"Good. Better. Veronika, if you'd been first, would you have said parrot?"
I nodded.
"Is that the best word? Is it better than 'prison'?"
"It's more of the picture."
"That's not what I asked. Is it better? Which would you say first-not then, but now, now that you know both of them?"
"I would still say 'cage'," said Caroline.
"Good. Why?"
"Because there's a cage."
"No. That's wrong."
"But there is a cage," protested Caroline.
"And that's the wrong reason." (38)

It goes on like that for a whole other page. Robbert was getting impatient with the girls, and I was getting impatient with Robbert. But I made it through to the end of the book thinking that I'd finally understand everything that was going on. Not so much. The ending just left me with even more unanswered questions. I don't want to give anything away, but I am still not entirely sure why Veronika and her identical friends existed. (If you read the book, you'll understand.) I feel like there could be a sequel to this book, but I'm not sure if that is part of the author's plan.

I think if you have engaged and slightly older readers reading this book, you could get a good discussion going. There is going to be a discussion guide available online at penguin.com/teachersandlibrarians. I'm anxious to read the guide for myself.

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