This girl is different… That’s what Evie has always told herself—and it’s true. Home-schooled by her counter culture mom, she’s decided to see what high school is like for the first time—for her senior year. And what a year it is.
As it turns out, it’s not just Evie who’s Different. Lots of people are. Many of her assumptions about others are turned on their heads as she makes friends with kids her own age for the first time, discovers what’s good and what’s bad about high school, and learns lessons about power and its abuse—both by the administration and by Evie herself.
This is the first novel by JJ Johnson I have read, and I really enjoyed it. It is classed as young adult, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was pacey, exciting and gripping. I read this book as fast as I read Therapy, and although they are completely different, they both had my heart racing, had me wondering what was going to happen.
This is the story of Evie, a girl who is about to enter her final year at high school – although this will also be her first year at high school, as she was home-schooled, both by herself using the internet and her mother, a wonderful, slightly eccentric character who likes to move around. We first meet Evie out by the river, drawing a snake she caught after she has fallen and sprained her ankle. Cue Raja and Jacinda, cousins who are walking past and help Evie. Their friendship blossoms and becomes a key storyline throughout the book. Along with Evie, and the havoc she causes at school. She doesn’t know what to expect but the regimental and sometimes unfair school system causes her to act radically, and as a result, secrets come out and the school is turned to chaos. Her relationships are jeopardised, as is her opportunity to go to her chosen university. Will she be able to set things right, whilst changing what was wrong?
As I said, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun novel about high-school. I can’t say how realistic it is, one girl coming in and shaking a whole school – certainly wouldn’t have happened at my secondary school, but it was a fascinating read. Evie stands up to teachers who bully students, teachers who have relationships with students outside of school – platonic or not, and she takes on the school about their mobile phone policy, the food and the fact the students are not allowed outside. Her, Rajas and Jacinda set up a blog, and chaos ensues. It might not be realistic, but it was a great read. I was hooked from the beginning, fascinated, and wondered if schools in America are really as bad as this novel makes them out to be?
Johnson seems to be addressing the lack of democracy in schools. Should students be allowed to have a say about every matter concerning school? Should they even have to go? It was interesting, and some things I agreed with – like the fact they should be allowed outside and the canteen should serve healthy food, but other stuff I found myself disagreeing with. I found myself entering into the debate, even as I read, which is a sign of a good book to me.
I liked all the characters. Evie was different, not afraid to stand out. Maybe without Rajas and Jacinda she wouldn’t have made any friends, but I liked her individuality. Rajas and Jacinda were very well written. I liked how they interacted with each other – and their mood swings seemed very realistic. Martha – Evie’s mum was a strange character. I didn’t like that Evie didn’t call her “Mum” but I loved that Martha was there for Evie all the way through. The headmaster is the other character who stuck out for me. He reminded me of Headmaster Chartleston from Gilmore Girls! He seemed to give Evie a lot of freedom and often support – which I found hard to believe given the state the school was slipping into.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was fun and exhilarating. The ending wasn’t a total surprise, but then this isn’t a thriller, it is a young-adult novel full of school, friendship and love. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it, even if, like me, you aren’t a young adult any more!
Reviewed for netGalley