Happy YA Contemporary Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm thrilled to review A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall. This is the first title from Swoon Reads, and has definitely been worth the wait…
YA Contemporary/Contemporary Thursday is where we review the latest and greatest contemporary titles!
Paperback, 272 pages
Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by Swoon Reads
Format read: ARC via Publisher
Sandy Hall will undoubtedly charm readers and make them giggle with genuine joy, as her uniquely-framed story shows us what it means to fall in love for the first time.
Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, somethingis happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....
Both the premise of a contemporary college romance told from a multitude of perspectives, and the fact that this is basically one of the first crowd-sourced novels out there, meant that I was counting down the days to release day. Fortunately for me, Macmillan kindly decided to send me an ARC and I dug in!
In A Little Something Different, debut author Sandy Hall introduces us to Lea and Gabe, two college freshmen who are meant to be - if only they could figure it out.
Through the eyes of their friends, roommates, delivery men, a campus squirrel (!) and even a much-neglected campus bench (!!), readers are able to see everything from Lea and Gabe's first meeting, to the realization that they're beginning to fall for one another.
While maintaining fourteen points-of-view is no easy task, Hall does it with a surprising amount of grace for a debut author. By carefully highlighting each POV and through the use of subtle stylistic changes, Hall is able to gently guide the reader along the evolution of Lea and Gabe's relationship, as we also learn about their new collegiate environment.
The relationship that eventually begins to develop between Lea and Gabe as they muster up the courage to talk to each other in their creative writing class can't necessarily be described as swoon worthy, but it's definitely realistic - which makes it even better.
Through tense moments involving partnering up for writing assignments, thinly-veiled prompt responses and even a well-intentioned, meddling professor who really just wants to see these two hook up, Hall is able to perfectly capture the will-he/won't-she type of delicious uncertainty that every relationship - particularly a collegiate one - has before it hopefully solidifies into something more permanent. I basically found myself squeeing happily at every near relationship miss, and believe me when I say: that really doesn't happen all that often.
Outside of the core romance, Hall is also able to use her stylistic choice to interweave some more profound subplots for the in-progress couple as well. Subtle observations from other characters help us dig deeper into both Lea and Gabe's backgrounds, including a surprising revelation that made me think of all the times I might have misjudged someone - much like a certain Starbucks barista in the story. This surprising degree of profundity ultimately made not only the story richer, but the romance all that much sweeter.
While A Little Something Different is more or less universally charming, some readers might have some issue with the universal disdain that is heaped upon a specific character when it looks like they might try and get the way of Lea and Gabe's romance. Characters responded to that character with the type of dislike that bordered slightly on Disney-esque, and I did find myself wincing a little.
However, at the same time, you can't really fault a writer (and her characters) for being so committed to seeing two specific characters find their happiness, so I think that their passion against preventing anyone else from getting in the way, is something that should be taken with a bemused grain of salt.
Ultimately, A Little Something Different isn't necessarily a swoon read, but it's definitely a creative and fun read. I thought it was a great reminder of the magic of falling in love for the first time, and what it means to bring others along for that journey.
First and foremost, it's a sweet and charming story that perfectly encapsulates the thinking and awkwardness - so much awkwardness! - that goes into the dynamics of any relationship, particularly a college-aged relationship.
I found myself frequently identifying with the feelings that both Lea and Gabe shared with their friends and family, and pretty much kept grinning to myself while reading, as I imagined just what it would have been like for my friends to be on the receiving end of similar questions. I can almost guarantee that other readers will feel the same as well.
Second, this book is also proof that a crowd-sourced book really works. Swoon Readers knew what they were doing when they picked this book, and I'm excited to see how this book and other Swoon Reads titles do after publication. It's an exciting and innovative time for publishing, and I'm glad that I can play a small part in it as well.
I strongly recommend this book for fans of YA contemporary fiction, and also for readers who are looking to try experimental genres - Sandy does something very unique, and it definitely pays off.
About the author:
Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn't writing or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A Little Something Different is her first novel.