Title: The Different Girl
Author: Gordon Dahlquist
No. of Pages: 240
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Origins: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program
Bottom Line: A creative take on artificial intelligence but a lack of backstory and explanation of the futuristic, possibly dystopian, society, as well as the overly large number of questions left unanswered, make me fervently hope that this is the first book in a series.
“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.”
Thoughts: Told through Veronika’s perspective, Gordon Dahlquist’s The Different Girl follows Veronika and her “sisters” as they work through their daily chores and teachings and as she makes the reader cognizant of their lifestyle. While a reader knows that something is not quite right about the four girls, one is slow to focus on their special nature due in part because the differences are not mentioned outright but also because they are not considered out of the ordinary from Veronika’s perspective. Hints are there but the truth does not occur until May’s arrival, at which time the differences between them become quite apparent. Again, the truth is not necessarily a surprise but the unspoken confirmation of the truth is quite satisfying.
In addition to the uniqueness of the narrator, The Different Girl is dissimilar from other dystopian novels because of the lack of explicit descriptions or explanations. The entire story is very clinical, with the descriptions less about the physical and more about the mental confusion Veronika suffers at the introduction of this foreign girl to her safe and orderly world. However, in spite of the lack of overt imagery, a reader can still envision the island the girls inhabit and can make sense of many of Veronika’s random thoughts. It is an unusual method of storytelling but very fitting given the narrator and quite effective.
The Different Girl has tremendous potential but only if the book is a part of a series, something which was undetermined at the time of writing this review. The perspective of the story is fresh, while the action is exciting and surprising. It is an engaging story that flows smoothly and quickly. However, the main issues are the sheer amount of unanswered questions and total lack of a backstory to explain the current societal structure. A reader just does not know enough to contemplate the meaning behind May’s actions and cryptic comments or comprehend the changes in the world. While it does add to the overall tension of the story, it also increases a reader’s frustration because no answers are forthcoming. The end of the novel is just as nebulous as the beginning, if not more so because of the glimpses of a changed world seen but left unexplained. If The Different Girl really is a standalone novel, it is not worth the exasperation from the lack of answers, but if it is the first book in a series, there is enough to make it quite the intriguing story with enough closure to satisfy readers while creating plenty of plot potential for future stories.