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This Girl Is Different

This Girl Is Different

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This Girl Is Different

ratings:
3.5/5 (6 ratings)
Length:
270 pages
4 hours
Released:
Oct 6, 2015
ISBN:
9781504026796
Format:
Book

Description

What happens when a girl, homeschooled by her counterculture mother, decides to spend her senior year in public school? First friendship, first love—and first encounters with the complexities of authority and responsibility.

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 ways 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.

J. J. Johnson’s powerful debut novel will enthrall readers as it challenges assumptions about friendship, rules, boundaries, and power.
Released:
Oct 6, 2015
ISBN:
9781504026796
Format:
Book

About the author

J. J. Johnson is the author of the acclaimed YA novels This Girl Is Different and The Theory of Everything. She graduated from Binghamton University and earned a master’s in education, with a concentration in adolescent risk and prevention, from Harvard University. Johnson has been a youth counselor and an internship coordinator for programs such as The Learning Web and Youth Advocacy. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina.

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This Girl Is Different - J. J. Johnson

Noah

1

Life is a daring adventure or nothing.

—HELEN KELLER, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST, 1880–1968

I manage to grab the snake, but not without twisting my foot and falling butt-first into the creek. When I stand, lightning shoots through my ankle.

I take a long, deep yoga breath, an Ujjayi ocean breath, to be calm. Steady. Strong. Hopping on one foot, I hold the wriggling snake and scramble over to a large rock. As I unshoulder my backpack, the snake flicks its tongue at me. It must think I’m crazy.

I can think of worse things. Better crazy than mild. Or timid, or meek, or boring.

From my backpack, I pull out the mason jar I brought for snake containment. Your temporary quarters. He slithers in, curls up at the bottom. After popping the ventilated lid on, I hold him up for a better look: velvety black, yellow lines running the length of his back. Garter snake, or ribbon? I sniff the jar. A bit skunky but not overwhelming. Probably ribbon. Either way, you’re a beauty. I set the container down.

Now, to call for help. I flip my cell phone open. It doesn’t chime. Of course I forgot to charge it.

Lightning shoots through my ankle again when I shift weight. It’s already getting puffy and it’s throbbing. Gingerly, I lower my foot into the creek so the cool water can help the swelling.

The snake, nonplussed, watches me. I unzip my backpack and move aside my drawing journal, the tin of colored pencils, the jar of filtered water. Ah, here it is: an emergency kit, packed by Martha. Score one for Martha, and moms everywhere. Hello, blister pack of ibuprofen! I swallow a couple of tablets with a swig of water and paw through the rest of the kit: band-aids and an ace bandage, a whistle, waterproof matches, a mirror. Plus, I packed two homemade oatmeal bars and a jar of peanuts and raisins. At least I won’t starve.

Stranded, hurt, but I can handle it.

No freak-outs. No worries. This girl is different.

I wrap the ace bandage around my ankle and dip it back into the water. Crimson maple leaves float by, brown dappling their curling tips. They swirl and laze in the eddy from my foot. I might as well try to slow down too; it will be a while before Martha realizes I’m hurt. After her shift at Walmart, she’ll probably stop at the food co-op and the library and who knows what else. Plus, it would take her a long time to hike this far along the creek. So even if she gets home early, and she notices my note and doesn’t just assume I’m in the barn or doing yoga, I’m stuck here well past sundown. At the earliest.

From the position of the sun, it’s not yet noon. Which leaves eight or nine hours to wait, or to come up with a better idea. Just me and my new friend Ribbons.

Hours later, still without an exit strategy, I take a break from drawing in my journal to check my sketches against Ribbons in his container. I ought to let him go, but I like the company. Sighing, I run my fingers over the smooth glass. I should probably try to find him a tasty worm or cricket to eat—

Wait. Voices in the woods.

A twig snaps. The voices get closer. I can pick out a male voice, some words: school, shop, classes. Is it two people out there, or three?

Hey! I call. Hello?

The voices go silent.

I’m down by the creek! I regard my throbbing ankle. Actually, I’m pretty much up the creek!

The voices return, low and quiet, like they’re discussing what to do. Branches move, leaves rustle. A boy about my age, in cutoff cargo shorts and hiking boots, pops out of the trees. I’ve seen him before, in town— once in the library, a few times at the coffee shop. You can’t help but see him. He is that kind of beautiful. A crunchier, leaner version of Kumar from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. His hair is glossy black, his eyes dark.

Blood rushes into my cheeks.

Hi, he says. The frays of his shorts brush against his legs when he moves. His leather hiking boots are scuffed and worn into whorls of color, whipped cream melting into milky coffee.

Hi. I will not sound like a damsel in distress. Although, technically, with a sprained ankle and no cell phone, I kind of am.

But where is the source of the other voice, or voices?

As if on cue, someone else stumbles out from the woods.

Kumar turns to catch the jumble of limbs. Coltish legs steady themselves and unfold to reveal a girl, very pretty. I’ve seen her around too.

Hi. I fan a small wave. I’m Evie. My heart won’t stop pounding.

Hi! The girl is all eyelashes and toenail polish, in flip-flops and a short sundress. Not the most practical hiking attire, but who am I to judge? After all, I’m barefoot. The girl is petite and thin and gamine, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but with richer, tawny brown skin. Indian maybe, or Latin American?

What’s up? She pokes her fingers into her short, jet-black hair, like she wants to fluff and spike it.

I hurt my ankle. It won’t take weight, and no one really knows where I am.

Kumar looks around. What’s he looking for? Is some - one else with them?

Audrey Hepburn asks, You came out this far alone? and I realize she is voicing Kumar’s thoughts. She says it like it’s unimaginable, like, You just flew back from the moon?

I shrug. I live about five miles downstream.

You live here? the boy asks. They look at each other.

The girl juts out her hip, sets her hand on it. Did you, like, just move or something?

I know what they’re thinking. Our town only has one high school, so everyone knows everyone. Well, obviously not everyone. I shake my head. I’ve lived here two years. I’m a homeschooler.

They look at each other again. They are saying a lot with those looks.

I’m normal, I swear! I smile to reassure them. I’m actually going to school this year. Starting Monday. Only three days away. I can’t wait. I want to see what it’s like; Martha is horrified that it will ruin me. It took a protracted battle to convince her to let me enroll. I finally wore her down—a brutal campaign of attrition— with ceaseless appeals for my own empowerment and personal decision-making. Also I convinced her I could be a gonzo journalist and treat high school like ethnographic research.

I’ll be a senior. I lift my foot out of the creek so I can turn all the way around to face Kumar and Audrey.

That’s awesome! says the girl. She wiggles her thumb at herself and the boy, Us too.

The boy’s eyes go wide; he is staring at my ankle. It looks swollen even with the ace bandage.

You weren’t kidding about your ankle. Nasty sprain. He steps closer and bends down to look at it. All right if I have a look? I’ve had some experience with these.

I nod. He kneels in front of me. My heart is thumping. Please tell me he can’t hear it. The closer he gets, the harder it hammers. These two are probably together, they’re a couple. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to assume? I’m not really an expert at this kind of thing.

Can I unwrap the bandage?

I swallow hard, and nod again, and hope that my heart can take the strain of him touching me.

Audrey tucks her dress behind her knees and dips into a knees-together, ladylike squat next to Kumar. Her eyes skim my bare feet, slide up to my cutoffs and tank top, stop at my makeup-less face. Why do girls always look me over like this?

My heart sinks. Which makes me feel lame, because my life is not about feeling insecure. But if Audrey is the kind of girl Kumar likes, he would have zero interest in me. Petite I’m not. I’m not fat, I’m just…built. Muscled and solid and tall. As for girly? Put it this way: I’m proud of being a girl, but girly? Not so much. I glance at my bare feet and unpolished toes, the light hairs on my unshaved shins, and I reach back to tighten my long brown ponytail. Whatever. I am what I am.

Besides, if they’re together I shouldn’t even be thinking these things.

Kumar cups the back of my foot and lifts it. I take a deep breath because it hurts, and because my heart is beating so hard.

Audrey and Kumar confer. Their words seem to float between them, bubbles that glint and pop.

OHMIGOD! The girl scrambles backward.

The boy frowns at my ankle. "It’s not that bad."

The color has drained from her face, leaving it ashy. In terror, she points at the jar. Snake! Snake!

Oh no. I’m sorry! I should have warned you. I hate that people are afraid of such wonderful creatures. I don’t want to be the cause of any snake-hate. He’s just a little ribbon snake. Completely harmless.

She shakes her head, apparently unconvinced. She takes another step back.

Would it be better if I let it go? Or do you want me to keep it contained?

Con…contained.

Okay. Don’t worry. I’ll keep it in the jar and—

The boy rolls his eyes at Audrey. Don’t be such a wuss. He turns to me and asks, Planning on keeping it?

No. I was just doing some—

Drawings. He’s spotted my journal. Wow. Can I see?

Sure.

He picks it up and thumbs through the pages. Holy crap. These are amazing.

Thanks.

What? The girl tries to see without moving closer.

Drawings. The snake and other stuff. He flips my journal shut and hands it to me, then turns to the girl. Jay, why don’t you start back? We’ll wait until you get far ahead before we let the snake loose.

No no no no no no no. I am not liking your plan. Trudging back through the forest alone? I don’t think so. She wraps her arms around herself. There might be more snakes or other various reptiles. Or what if I take a wrong turn and get lost forever?

The boy groans.

How about this? I say. On the count of three, you run, and I’ll let the snake go in the other direction—

And I’ll carry you out of here, Kumar says.

Oh yeah. My ankle. He’s going to carry me, like I need to be rescued? How humiliating!

Plus, can I handle being that close to him? His beauty is pathological. Which pisses me off, really. Me being all swooning and hyperventilating—it’s so lame.

But he’s already counting: One, two…

The girl takes off, and I hurry to let Ribbons the snake go. The boy picks me up, grunting a little with the effort. Yeah, I’m not small.

I’m not a damsel in distress, you know.

He laughs. Trust me: the thought did not occur.

2

You know there are moments such as these when time stands still and all you do is hold your breath and hope it will wait for you.

—DOROTHEA LANGE, PHOTOJOURNALIST, 1895–1965

Audrey Hepburn’s real name is Jacinda and beauteous Kumar is Rajas.

Rajas. He’s carrying me piggyback to his car, which he says is parked on the state forest access road not too far away. When the trail is wide enough, Jacinda walks beside us. She scrunches her nose as she picks her way through the flora. Tell me if you see any snakes. She laughs. Actually, don’t tell me if you see any snakes. Just tell me to run.

Got it. I keep an eye out for any slithery movement. My nose is scrunching too—out of frustration at my heart, which continues to jump around because of Rajas. It won’t listen to me, even though I’m a strong woman with strong morals. If the dude’s taken, he’s taken. Stop it, heart. Then again, I can’t blame you too much, heart: I am straddling the boy’s back, my thighs are rubbing against his arms. And he’s so warm. And he smells so good.

What brought you two out this way? I ask Rajas and Jacinda, to distract myself from my heart (and/or pheromones).

Rajas’s attempt at a shrug suffers under my weight. Just looking around.

Raj dragged me out here.

Because it’s good for you, Rajas tells Jacinda. Clear your head from all that girly crap you’re into.

Hey, I interrupt. Girly doesn’t necessarily make something crap.

Yeah. Jacinda smiles. Girls rule, boys drool.

Way to take the conversation back to second grade, Jay, Rajas says. Besides, Eve doesn’t seem like the girly type.

Okay…is that good or bad? In his eyes, I mean. Dang! What is wrong with me! Why do I care?

What about you? Rajas asks me. Why were you out here? Alone?

Yeah, do you, like, hang out here all the time?

I do, I answer. I feel most at home when I’m outdoors.

They respond simultaneously: Rajas says, Nice. Jacinda says, Ew. I cannot relate. She swats at an invisible insect. Get me inside already. Seriously. I never thought the Blue Biohazard would seem so appealing.

I must have heard you wrong, growls Rajas, because that sounded like you are disrespecting my baby.

Did I miss something? Is he really mad? The blue what?

Biohazard, answers Jacinda. Raj’s car. He gets snippy if you don’t bow down and worship it.

You don’t need to worship her. Polishing her hubcabs would suffice.

I lean closer to Rajas’s ear. I’m fully supportive of naming inanimate objects, but still. "The Blue Biohazard?"

Blue, for obvious reasons. Biohazard, because she averages a stately five miles a gallon. Rajas puffs out his chest in a show of pride.

And because it, like, leaks fluids everywhere.

Just my baby’s way of sharing the love, Jay.

Wow. I lean back a little; Rajas shifts his hold to adjust to my weight shift. More skin against skin: it sends a tingle. Five miles a gallon? I think that might be worse than a Hummer.

Rajas laughs. You know it. Figured I’d save myself the sixty thousand, and just drive grandpa’s car until it falls apart.

We all settle into happy quiet. Around us, nut - hatches and chickadees skitter on tree branches. Rajas’s boots pad softly on the earth. Jacinda’s flip-flops thwup thwup thwup against her soles. While I study the shafts of sunlight filtering through the evergreens, Rajas shifts again. Tingle.

Am I getting too heavy?

You’re fine. Rajas pops me up to shift my weight a couple of inches higher.

I must say, this is quite the… I trail off, trying to think of a word other than rescue.

Quite the non-rescue? Rajas suggests. Because you’re a non-damsel in non-distress, right?

I laugh. Right.

I always considered myself a non-hero, Rajas says.

Yeah, non-problem whatso-never, Jacinda says.

Still. You guys don’t even know me, I say. That could’ve been a really long wait back there if you hadn’t come along.

Well we love non-rescues, don’t we, Raj?

Of course. Sweat dews on Rajas’s shoulders and chest; our bodies are starting to slip and stick where our skin touches. We’re almost there now.

Blue Biohazard, here we come! Jacinda picks up into a jog.

Fantastic, I say, but really, I wouldn’t mind more walking—miles more—so I could be with Rajas like this for a long, long time.

Turn here. I point to the gravel road. My driveway’s up the hill.

Roger that. Rajas turns the car onto the pitted road. The Blue Biohazard is the perfect name for his enormous, leaky, rusty, rickety old boat of a car.

I shudder to think of the havoc we’re wreaking on the environment, I say, but…this is a great car. Tons of personality. I’m riding in the front, next to Rajas, because of my ankle. I suppose Jacinda usually sits here. God, I wish my heart would stop pounding. But he is so beautiful. And so nice. With a great sense of humor. And he and Jacinda seem to get my jokes, which isn’t a small thing, isn’t a common thing at all. I haven’t had many friends my own age.

Thanks. Rajas pats the steering wheel. My sweet, sweet baby. 1976 Buick Skylark.

I have a feeling you might appreciate my own vehicular transportation.

Oh yeah? he asks.

Mmm-hmm. Martha—that’s my mom—and I have a 1961 Volkswagen minibus.

No way. That is a sweet ride.

Ugh. Jacinda pops into the space between the front seats. You two cannot be serious! You are, like, two of a kind with your old piece-of-junk clunkers!

Two of a kind? If you say so! Sweat prickles my forehead. That’s what we call her. The Clunker.

Jacinda rolls her eyes and groans; Rajas elbows her back to her seat.

But you have me beat, I tell Rajas, with all your elite universities. College stickers coat the Biohazard’s rear window.

Rajas squints at me like he’s trying to tell if I’m serious. Yeah, he says. Lends an air of grandeur.

Very prestigious, I say.

He’s being ironic, Jacinda chimes in. Because his car is such a heap? And they are such good schools?

I think she got that, Jay. Rajas flashes me a devious, gorgeous, lopsided smile that sends my stomach into a spin.

Jacinda makes a face at Rajas before she says to me, It’s the whole Ivy League except Cornell.

Why not Cornell?

I’m waiting—Rajas lifts his chin in the direction of the backseat—for Jay to give me that one.

Because that’s where I want to go next year, Jacinda explains.

Wait, really? I turn around. The girl is full of surprises. Which you’ve got to love. But why would Rajas be waiting for Jacinda to go to Cornell before he gets the sticker? They must be together. Why else would he care so much about her plans? That’s where I want to go, I say.

Get out! That is so cool!

Rajas looks over at me. Really? Cornell? You don’t seem like—

Ivy League material? I raise my eyebrows. Why? Because I don’t wear shoes and don’t shave my legs?

He looks stricken. I really didn’t mean it like that.

I laugh. "You’re right; I’m not their typical profile. But I’ve been taking online courses and they have this fantastic Urban Planning program with a concentration in Social Justice. You work with architects and planners, plus do antipoverty campaigns and that kind of thing. The

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Reviews

What people think about This Girl Is Different

3.7
6 ratings / 12 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    Evie is different in many ways. She's been raised to be a free-thinker. Her mother has home-schooled her, and they live in a self-sustaining home. This are going to change however, because Evie has decided to finish out her senior year in public high school. She quickly makes two friends, and it seems like things will go well. Evie soon finds her outspokenness is not so welcome. While trying to give other students a voice, Evie finds herself mixed up in something much bigger. She soon has to risk everything to try and set things right while staying true to herself.I found this to be a very fun book. I think it can be difficult to keep a character like Evie from being overbearing with her opinions, but the author did a good job. For the most part Evie was able to express her beliefs without being too oppressive with her opinions. You could tell that in the end Evie was really interested in the best thing for everyone. She wanted to make a difference in people's lives. Even though things may not have turned out exactly like Evie wanted, she had her heart in the right place. This makes her easy to like.The other characters were equally fun. Evie's mom was particularly wacky, but in a good way. This book was a super fast read, mostly because I was enjoying it so much. I would definitely recommend this book. Evie is not your typical YA heroine, but I think that's part of her appeal. She is in fact different, but in some really wonderful ways.Galley provided by publisher for review.
  • (3/5)
    Evie (Evensong Sparkling Morningdew) has been homeschooled all of her life by her freespirited, hippie mother, Martha. When Evie decides she wants to spend her senior year in a public high school, hoping for some "typical" life experiences, like friends, dating, school dances, and detention, things don't quite go how she had planned. Is being independent, strongwilled and smart enough to get you through a day in high school? Every time she turns around, she confronts a new problem -- and her solutions to those problems only seem to create more problems. When she decides to create a blog for students to post comments to reveal injustice and oppression at their school, it is meant to be a forum for raising awareness of problems -- but what happens when that turns into cruelty and bullying? How will all of this affect Evie's future and her dreams of going to Cornell University? Taking responsibility for your actions and words is a strong theme, and the First Amendment issues are realistic. Best for 8th grade and up, as there is some mature content.
  • (3/5)
    "This Girl is Different" should find a welcome home in any well-rounded YA library. Evie, a creative, opinionated and driven homeschooler, has decided to attend high school for her senior year in order to experience life as a "normal" teenager before going her first-choice college, Cornell. Quite typically, she makes friends, loses friends, and realizes that she does not know everything about everything in typical YA coming-of-age fashion. What sets this story apart are the touches of realism: while Evie and her mom reside in a cool self-constructed dome, they also live on a tight budget and her mother works at Walmart to make ends meet. The realistic descriptions of her romantic feelings for a boy at school and her complicated relationship with a teacher are some others ways JJ Johnson elevated a simple tale into one that has some twists and turns that are not too predictable. This a great read for teenagers interested in seeing their school experience from the perspective of a true outsider, and will probably be checked out more often than in. Recommended purchase for high school libraries.
  • (3/5)
    Not bad, but not astoundingly good. I liked Evie, although her motivations seemed too grand. I felt like she could have used some more time getting used to high school before screaming about how unfair it was. I liked Jacinda and Rajas in the beginning, but the way their characters went seemed a little too out of the way for me. Overall, I think the plotline was too rushed- too much happens in too little time. I'd liked to have seen Evie's actions and changes stretch out and see what goes on further in the story. Still, not a bad story, just needs work.
  • (5/5)
    Evie meets Rajas and Jacinda while out hiking in the forest. She had a sprained ankle and was waiting around for her mother, whom she refers to as Martha, to figure out she's missing and pick her up.

    You never find out what Rajas and Jacinda were doing in the forest, as a matter of fact, you never visit the scene again. However, do you do learn - from Evie's first person present narrative - that they both go to the high school that she has enrolled in for her senior year.

    The books details the clash of cultures as a homeschooler joins the public school system and sees first hand what public school and peer interaction is like. It details her interaction with her teachers and her clashes with authority - something she seems unaccustomed to since Martha, though her mother, is a bit of a free spirit, and while a fun character to read, she's not much of an authority figure in Evie's life than a friend. It raises questions on what happens when personal freedom impinges on the freedoms of another, and there is no responsibility for one's action.

    Evie soon finds out that being a part of something is different than reading or hearing about it, that experience can change perspective. Even though I found the initialization of the conflict to be sudden and a little out of character, I found the story to be a quick and easy read, leaving room for some great discussion points on rights and responsibility.

    [review of arc via netgalley]
  • (4/5)
    This Girl Is Different is not for the weak-minded. A sharp contrast from books like The Lipstick Laws and Audrey, Wait!, but not quite as dark and troubled as Ballads Of Suburbia. This Girl Is Different is a quite precocious book that will surely inspire readers to be more aware of social justice, freedom of speech, and bullying.Not to mention all the interesting quotes that open each chapter spurred me on to see what happens next as Evie critically examines the school system and how it contrasts with the freedom that she enjoyed via home-schooling. She dives into the social circles, thankfully with the help of her new friends Jacinda and Rajas who seem to be in the more popular-but-nicer crowd. She gets frustrated with the unfair cell phone policy that favors students who can afford data plans on their phones, but can't answer your mom's call during the lunch hour when it's not disrupting class!While I didn't love Evie to death (she gives tough love), I did enjoy the message behind This Girl Is Different and it made me consider the difference between the structure of high school versus the freedom of college/real world. Constantly I can see the reasoning behind the school rules, but still I can see how startling it could be for Evie who was unused to the structure. How limiting it can be for one to express oneself (i.e. defend one's dignity), especially when a teacher oversteps their professional boundaries or goes beyond the definition of strict discipline.I wish there had been a little more good blogging before things spiraled out of control, but this is high school and drama travels explosively fast as Evie soon finds out! Kudos for J.J. Johnson on providing a diversity of authority figures - parents, teachers, principal, etc - who had different expectations for these high-schoolers and acted as both good and bad guys. This is also a story that may inspire educators to take a good look at their teaching attitude - I know that This Girl Is Different would have changed my whole perspective if I had pursued a teaching career!
  • (5/5)
    This girl is Different is a debut YA novel by JJ Johnson. I got it in the mail just yesterday and was delighted with the way it looked. The cover art is beautiful, well-thought-out and it relates to the story inside in many ways. The texture of the dust cover and the way the pages are numbered are very unique and truly different from other YA books I've read so far. The heroin of this story, seventeen-year-old Evie, is anything but ordinary teenager. Being home schooled by her counterculture mother, she never really experienced how public schools work, never had to put herself out there and try to become part of society, never even had to pick up a textbook and study from it. She's different than other girls (and boys) her age, she doesn't wear make-up, she lives in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature, she draws snakes and other animals and she builds scale models of cities, communities, villages and buildings. Evie and her mom seem to be very environmentally conscious, they get their electricity from solar panels, they grow their own vegetables, keep their own chickens and a cow, and they even bake their own bread at home.Their house is a geodesic Dome Home, which they built themselves. Obviously, not your typical American (or any other for that matter) family. Evie is a well-read girl with a strong moral spine and a pretty good idea of what she wants to do with her life. And what she wants right now is to get a first-hand experience with the Public School system, so she enrolls in a local high school for her senior year. Just when the school year is about to start, Evie goes for a hike in the nearby woods and sprains her ankle while trying to catch a snake. Stranded 5 miles deep into the wilderness and not being able to call for help, she's lucky enough to be found by two young hikers. Her "non-rescuers" (she does not perceive herself as a damsel in distress, and therefore does not feel the need to actually be rescued), are, as it turns out, her future school mates, Rajas and Jacinda. The three of them are very comfortable with each other from the very start and they quickly become close friends. But there's more to the story than just Evie's social experiment and her experiences at school. Things get more serious when our heroine witnesses teachers abusing their power and being unfair toward students. Evie being herself, she can't just ignore the social injustice and she takes it upon herself to do something to bring changes to her school. Together with Rajas and Jacinda they start PLUTO (People's Lightning to Undermine True Opposition), an anonymous organization, whose purpose is to fight for respect, freedom and student rights. To bring attention to the inequality in the school, PLUTOs post a lightning bolt on the person's door/locker, and then they discuss the reasons for being "stricken by the lightning" on PLUTO's blog. Unfortunately, despite PLUTO's best intentions, things quickly snowball out of control, as the lightning strikes are being posted no longer only by PLUTO members, and no longer only truly "deserving" people are being targeted. Things are about to go very, very wrong... This Girls is Different is an amazingly refreshing and unique read. It deals with some important issues, like social injustice, power abuse, bullying, teacher-student relationships, etc., and yet it doesn't have the heaviness and slowness one would expect from a book like that. I was immersed in the story from the very opening words and wasn't able to put this book down, until 320 pages later, when I hit the back cover. I literally swallowed the book in one bite and, even though I was perfectly satisfied with the way the story played out, I still found myself wanting more. More of the world seen through Evie's eyes, more of JJ's excellent writing style, more of the fantastic chemistry between Rajas and Evie, more, more, more! One of my favorite highlights of this book were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter. JJ Johnson did a great job picking them, they related to the chapters in a special way and made it so much more fun to read them. Honestly, I find it very hard to believe that what I just read was a debut novel. I look at some writers who have been writing for years now and they still have no hope of reaching JJ Johnson's level of writing skills. Her storytelling is superb! I have no doubt that I will be re-reading this book many times in the future. Books like this one make me want to add a sixth star to my five star rating system!
  • (5/5)
    So, where to begin. When I first saw this book listed in Peachtree Publishing's spring catalog, it gave me pause. Why? Well, the cover first and foremost. You have to admit that's a pretty eye catching piece of artwork there and I just love how "different" is turned upside down....kind of like Evie's world in the coming days. Second giver of pause, the story synopsis. It sounded just "different" enough to be interesting, but what I got once I started on my reading adventure....was a whole lot more. To keep from rambling on (too much at least), I'll address a few points of interest that I felt really stood out....though trust me, the whole story is well worthy of praise. Here goes...1. The title is a perfect fit because this girl...Evie...IS different. Her ideals, standards, and beliefs are almost foreign in some respects to those of her new classmates and not just in that "homeschooler" way. It's not merely the more structured study setting she has to adjust too, it's the whole environment from students and teachers to the hierarchy of popularity and rights both recognized and impinged upon. It's a very different mindset than the one she was raised in and one that she'll need to adjust to rather quickly if she hopes to keep her dreams of attending Cornell alive. (Or will she?)2. The cast of characters is a unique blend stemming from a variety of backgrounds that reflect what we see in the world today. Think about your friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. It's highly doubtful they are all cookie-cutter images of you so why shouldn't the literary world reflect that diversity as well? My point exactly...and the author does a great job in creating that mix right here. From a girl that lives on a fairly self-sustaining homestead to the peppy Cheer Squad leader with more substance than it may first seem and a lot more in-between, they're an eclectic bunch but memorable all the more for it.3. A mother daughter relationship that doesn't spout angst, extreme displays of over protective behavior, or overtly sunshine and roses declarations of love....but instead presents them more as sisters, best friends even. Shocked? I'm not, but that could have something to do with my own relationship with my Mom. Literarily speaking, it is more of a shocker but a welcome one at that. Martha is a down to earth woman who may have lived an "interesting" life once upon a time which resulted in the birth of her daughter (think hippies and free love, not call girl), but that chapter of her life is closed, leaving her free to instill the values of clean living, self and mutual respect for all living things along with a good healthy dose of rebellious nature in Evie's life. A refreshing approach to see AND read.4. The emotions cast are felt full force...even the first blush of teenage love and potential heartbreak. While not breaking new ground with the inclusion of a love life for Evie, the way it is approached is somewhat "different" as it doesn't take center stage in the story and yet it's positive and negative reprucussions are clearly felt. It's a blur of new emotions mixed with anxiety and a little self-doubt but something that comes with life and Evie is well equipped to handle it.5. A broad range of topics, some of which are controversial in nature, are covered within these pages...some of which you might not anticipate. Abuse of power when dealing with teachers as well as students, freedom of speech, inappropriate relationships, environmental causes, friendship, making hard decisions for better or worse, and staying true to your beliefs....all this and more in this ONE novel. Quite the feat but well presented. In short, this BOOK is different...not in the fantastical elements used sort of way, but in the reality of the events and situations presented, the strength of the beliefs put forth, and the possibilities left open like a warm sunny day. It's a fiction book, yes...but one that will have you thinking of all the real life applications long after you finish the final page. A great read indeed and one I'd certainly recommend though in regards to the age level, I'd say the "12 - 16 years old" audience they were aiming for is just about as young as I would go. There are a few sensually tinged scenes and the concepts explored may be a little over the heads of readers younger than the intended group, but that doesn't mean it can't wait on their wish lists in the mean time. As for adult readers, come one...come all. In fact, a read of this book may open up a few doors of conversations to be had with those younger folks around you. From the "hard talks" to their social awareness, there are many jumping points to take note of.
  • (4/5)
    (Book provided by publisher for review)Homeschooler meets public school! I love these books ...Evie (the homeschooler) and her new friends Jacinda and Rajas are fun, engaging characters. They're very real, like high school seniors I would expect to meet wandering the halls of any high school. They meet by chance and quickly become friends - and maybe more. Evie is unlike anyone Rajas or Jacinda have ever met, and they are quickly caught up in her plans to revolutionize The Institution Of School and take down The Man. But soon their plans get out of hand, and sheer chaos erupts, tearing apart the school - and shattering their friendships. While Evie's mother is fully supportive, and even instigates a large amount, of the 'revolution,' Evie begins to wonder if perhaps there isn't a better way to bring about (needed!) social changes ... Taking the leap from homeschool to public school is a major learning experience for Evie - but also for all the students, and teachers. Lessons are learned, sometimes painfully, and everyone begins to realize there are always alternative ways to get your point across.
  • (3/5)
    Zwei Welten prallen aufeinander, als die 17-jährige Evie, die bis dahin zu Hause von ihrer alleinerziehenden, feministischen Mutter Martha unterrichtet wurde, erstmals eine staatliche Schule besucht. Zwar findet sie schnell Freunde in der Cheerleaderin Jacinda und in deren Cousin Rajas, aber Evie kann sich nur schwer in den strengen Schulablauf einordnen. Vielmehr kritisiert sie die Unterdrückung der Schüler durch Lehrkräfte und ruft gemeinsam mit Jacinda den Blog PLUTOS gegen Intoleranz und Sexismus ins Leben. Eine Lehrerin wird in diesem Blog an den Pranger gestellt und danach bricht eine ungeahnte Mobbingkampagne vom Zaune, die sich nicht mehr stoppen lässt und in der Evie selbst zum Opfer wird. Am Ende steht sie ganz allein da und hat nicht nur die Lehrerschaft, sondern auch die Mitschüler gegen sich und ihren radikalen Gerechtigkeitssinn aufgebracht. Die Highschoolstory mit zahlreichen philosophischen Exkursen liest sich durchaus spannend, enthält eine teeniegerechte Lovestory, ist jedoch sehr dem amerikanischen Schulsystem verhaftet. Insofern brauchbarer Zusatztitel für größere Bestände.
  • (2/5)
    Having been homeschooled all her life, Evie is excited to start public school. Despite making some new friends just before school starts, however, the jump from private schooling to public schooling is rocky, and her outspoken nature gets her in a lot of trouble over the idea of justice, especially with those satisfied with the status quo.The book is filled with many contemporary cliches: the cheerleaders and jocks, the nerds and dorks, the popular kids and invisible kids. I'm a bit tired of seeing these stereotypes blown so big in proportion. It may have seen as necessary for this book. Who else would be the ones to target and be targeted when Evie's attempts to reform the school begin to be used to the opposite effect? However, I feel as though it was blown out of proportion even with Jacinda being a cheerleader captain with a good heart.Evie is a unique character. She’s grown up learning how to speak for herself, and she’s a bit of an idealist. When she brings up her opinions on school, she expects instant change, which I found a bit ridiculous. It doesn't make her likable, and she ends up frustrating herself, her peers, and her teachers with her outrageous requests.Still, this a book about growing up. Evie makes a lot of mistakes, there are drastic results, and she learns from them. This Girl is Different is about what it means to be an individual, on the courage to side with justice, and on the consequences of our actions. I doubt older readers like myself will enjoy this book, having seen too many stereotypes in books and movies, but tween readers may enjoy it as it seems more relatable to younger readers.
  • (3/5)
    Even though I finished the book, I am still on the fence about it. On one hand, I liked the story a lot. On the other hand, some of the characters were either flat or way too cliché.Evie had been raised by her flower power mom. She was even home schooled. However, Evie decides that she wants to spend her last year in high school with the regular kids. So she enrolls in a local high school.Evie’s mom was extremely wishy washy. As long as Evie wasn’t really bothering her, Evie could do whatever she wanted. So Evie grew up without any parental guidance or authority figure in her life.Now flash forward to Evie entering high school. We all know that schools are bound by rules and regulations. Even though you may not like them, they are still there and need to be obeyed. Evie has difficulty with this concept.This book does deal with bullying in school. I just think that the characters could have either been a little less cliché or maybe a little more drawn out.In conjunction with the Wakela's World Disclosure Statement, I received a product in order to enable my review. No other compensation has been received. My statements are an honest account of my experience with the brand. The opinions stated here are mine alone.