Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review: Not Like You

It's now Thursday and I still am without a computer. I am devoting the rest of this day to tracking it down in Edinburgh, which is no small task when you don't have a phone. If I am unsuccessful, I think there is a fair chance I'll be institutionalized.

However. One of the benefits of being without my true love is the forced hiatus its absence has caused me. This break has provided me some room to think on some of the books I've read recently. *

Take, for example, Deborah Davis' Not Like You, out July 16 from Clarion. On the surface of things, Not Like You is like many a Young Adult novel--the protagonist, 15-year-old Kayla, has grown up with no known father and an alcoholic mother who keeps them on the move after each bender lands her in trouble. The novel opens with one such move--to a hardscrabble town in New Mexico.

Kayla doesn't expect much from Rio Blanco, New Mexico, and she's not disappointed. Mom falls in with an organization called New Horizons and promises a new start. Rio Blanco has little to offer in terms of entertainment and Mom has rented an awful, tiny trailer as their new home. The trailer is owned by a lazy landlord named Redbone, who not only does not fix their water heater, but also plies Mom with booze each time he drops by the trailer. Despite such inauspicious beginnings, Kayla, an industrious girl, gets her dog-watching business up and running within a week of arriving to Rio Blanco. Soon, she's earning 10-15 dollars an hour training and caring for ill-behaved canines during her summer days.

During one such training gig, Kayla meets the 24-year-old son of her wealthy boss. The young man is a rock musician named Remy, a boy as full of promises as Kayla's wreck of a mother. Over time, Kayla turns to Remy instead of her mother for emotional support and follows him to Denver--stealing money from another set of employers in the process. Once in Denver, Kayla discovers that Remy isn't as interested in her as she thought.

Not Like You easily could have been a cliched novel based on easy redemption and radical character transformation. But, it's not. Instead, Kayla, despite her thievery and inclination for falling for the wrong guys, carries on bravely and with spirit. While Kayla never realizes that Remy is just like her mother, in his propensity for "borrowing" money and making easy promises, the reader knows Kayla will figure this out and soon. Why? Because Kayla is the type of person who learns from her mistakes and strives to do right by herself and others. Kayla's mother, Marilyn, doesn't become a saintly, abashed character--pure in a new sobriety. Rather, she remains a wounded, immature woman who is determined to stay clean and help her daughter grow up.

Deborah Davis' straightforward, clean prose suits the world and characters it portrays in Not Like You. This is a novel that makes you think--days after you've read it--about what will become of its characters and about the amazingly real world it depicts. Not Like You is highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.
* I did handwrite this review. If I ever receive my computer, I'll take a photo of the scribbled pages so you can see what I'm working with.

Speaking of handwriting--your comments yesterday on longhand vs. computer were so very interesting! I'll reply as soon as I'm able.