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29 January 2012 THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME by Madeleine George, Viking, March 2012, 272p., ISBN: 978-0-670-01128-5


"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.



"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.


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/



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