The Different Girl
Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.
Sly and unsettling, Gordon Dahlquist’s timeless and evocative storytelling blurs the lines between contemporary and sci-fi with a story that is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the final page has been turned.
I was so intrigued by the blurb for THE DIFFERENT GIRL because just from the short description, I had so many questions. What made May different? Why were the four girls on the island? Why are they identical? Unfortunately, after having read the book, I am left with more questions and few answers.
THE DIFFERENT GIRL is very contemplative. Told from the point of view of Veronika, one of the girls on the island, the reader has a very limited view of events. The way she talks and thinks is clearly trying to tell us about her, but even within those constraints, she doesn't seem to grow or develop as a character. She is happy with her life and doesn't ask many questions about it, and as a result the reader doesn't get much background detail. Because of this, it seems to take a very long time to set the stage for the action, and the first half of the book starts out slowly.
There are a lot of clues dropped throughout about the nature of the four girls, how they got to the island, and what may exist beyond it, for example. I felt that it was expected that I would draw certain conclusions, but it was frustrating that my ideas were never confirmed or denied. At the end, there is no big reveal to answer the questions that I had. I love books that are mind bending and that make me think, but when I am too busy thinking about unclear, seemingly basic facts, I have a hard time making the leap to finding a deeper meaning those facts might lead me toward.
While a bit unresolved, THE DIFFERENT GIRL is still a lovely book. It is well written, with a smooth narrative that allows the reader explore through Veronika’s eyes. Though it starts out slowly, once the action starts picking up, it maintains a steady pace and was hard for me to put down. This book is kind of like a puzzle. It is an enjoyable, albeit meandering, experience, but as you get to the end, you realize you’re missing a few pieces that got lost along the way. So while you have fun along the way, it just isn't as satisfying as when you complete the whole picture.
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