Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarche

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarcheLike No Other by Una LaMarche
Narrator: Leslie Odom, Phoebe Strole
Length: 9 hrs, 56 mins
Published by Listening Library on July 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

Fate brought them together. Will life tear them apart? 

Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing.

Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters).

They've spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did.

When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection.

Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?

In the timeless tradition of West Side Story and Crossing Delancey, this thoroughly modern take on romance will inspire laughter, tears, and the belief that love can happen when and where you least expect it.

Like No Other didn’t immediately call to me, which isn’t surprising since forbidden romance is one of the tropes that doesn’t really get my shippy heart beating. Still, when Dahlia (Behind the Scenes/Under the Lights/Just Visiting) and Gaby (Bookish Broads) recommended it very highly, I added it to my to-read list. Then, my TBR pile being what it is, I sort of forgot about it. Then, however, I finally decided it was time to get into audiobooks again. One of the audiobook review emails I’d received included the works of Una LaMarche, and Like No Other had dual narration, which I love, so the time had come. As anticipated, with anything that those two would push that hard, Like No Other was fantastic.

Like No Other deals with the forbidden romance between a Hasidic girl and a black boy. Now, what I tend not to like about forbidden romances is how melodramatic they are, but Like No Other doesn’t fall into that tendency. There’s drama, yes, but I don’t find any of it to be over the top, and I think the way everything resolves is completely perfect, though obviously I won’t tell you what that is. I also think that, though the romance element is key, the central part of the novel is actually Devorah’s internal struggles, so do not be concerned that a sappy romance overtakes plot.

The romance is kind of sappy. It’s instalove to the max too. BUT that is actually a wonderful thing. I’ve said before, and will no doubt say again, that instalove can work and be perfect if it’s clearly how the teens feel because they may have an inaccurate view of love. Like No Other captures that sixteen-year-old all-encompassing passion flawlessly. I think the fact that I was listening to it on the audiobook really aided me with this. Odom and Stole did wonderful voice acting to completely sell me on their feelings. It was also evident, though, by how they thought about certain things how young and idealistic they were.

Jaxon, actually, does have a lot of the Romeo to him. Until he meets Devorah, when they get stuck on an elevator together during a blackout, he had a huge crush on another girl. Then, the moment he meets Devorah BOOM OBSESSION. He’s immediately obsessed with her and, in almost no time, convinced he’s in love (whether he actually is up to personal interpretation). I like Jaxon a lot, but he’s very desperate for connection and clearly wanted to be in love, so that very much colored his interactions. He really wanted a relationship and this pretty girl showed up and seemed kind of interested, which, let’s be real, is about all it takes at sixteen. I know when I was that age, I developed crushes on a few guys solely because I thought maybe they might like me.

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He got it he got it bad

Devorah, on the other hand, was very much not looking for love or romance; actually, she was fearing the not too far in the future time when she would get married and start a family. In Like No Other, it would be easy to say that meeting Jaxon was what caused Devorah to engage in rebellious behaviours against her Hasidic culture, but there’s more than just that going on. The novel opens with Devorah’s eighteen-year-old sister Rose giving birth to her first daughter prematurely during a blackout. Despite being incredibly moved by the actual birth (*gags a bit*), Devorah’s terrified at the thought that in two years she could be married to someone like Jacob (her sister’s controlling husband) and having a baby. She’s not ready yet and doesn’t think she will be then; she wants to receive a real education and have a job, but that’s not a normal desire for a Hasidic girl.

Thus far, I’ve been trying to sort of skirt the religious elements, because I don’t entirely feel comfortable talking about them from my privileged position as an agnostic white girl. Still, I don’t really think it’s possible to review this book without mentioning that aspect at all, so bear with me.

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Going into this book, I was aware that I didn’t have much knowledge about Judaism, but Like No Other really drove home how much I don’t know. I learned a lot just from Like No Other, and even more from Dahlia and Gaby, who were kind enough to answer my questions when I finished. I actually really like learning about what drives faith and different beliefs, even if I don’t feel an impulse towards god (be it God, gods, or G-d) or religion myself, so I really loved getting a window into a culture I knew almost nothing about. Thanks to Gaby and Dahlia, I’m a little bit clearer on what was specifically Hasidic and what wasn’t.

Based on the book, being Hasidic comes off a bit like fundamental Judaism. There are very strict rules and antiquated gender roles. Obviously, from my point of view, there are things that I don’t personally like, but it’s not my life. With a heroine like Devorah, who loves her faith but also feels a yearning for something outside, it’s hard not to chafe against some of the restrictions. What’s important to me, with any religious belief (be it atheism or a faith), is that people be allowed to make their own choice to participate in that belief and that they be respectful of the beliefs of others. Though there are tough moments, I do think Like No Other succeeds in portraying both the good and bad sides of Hasidic culture, just like there are good and bad sides to any culture. This is how I like my diverse books to be, because often I find that they almost seem to condemn that other culture, which has always made me really uncomfortable.

Like No Other is poignant and touching. There’s some forbidden romance and a whole lot of family and soul-searching. It’s also very much Devorah’s story, not really Jaxon’s; he’s a player in her tale.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif romeo and juliet crying

3 responses to “Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarche”

  1. Lyn Kaye says:

    I hate that this sounds like instalove, but, hey, like you said, sometimes it happens when the MCs are young. I really want to pick this up because I think it is great that there is a Hasidic character. I often dodged around religious books for a long time, because I had to get over my bitterness I felt towards organized religion. Now that I am much more comfortable with my lack of religion, and I have completely gotten over my fear of retribution if I didn’t believe in God (it takes a LONG time to overcome brainwashing at a deeper level, I have discovered), I have been warmed up to the thought of religion in novels. I have read Devoted this year, which intrigued me quite a bit.

    Thank you for the rec, Christina. 🙂
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: Spinning StarlightMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s the good kind of instalove, I promise. It amused me in the good way, I think.

      I feel bitterness towards organized religion too, but I try to fight it. Also, I think religion is interesting. I just don’t like when people use it as an excuse to hate others or do other terrible things. Brainwashing is definitely hard to overcome. We get it from society too. I don’t have the religious stuff, except for what’s soaked into our country’s mores.

      This is similar to Devoted but also quite different. I’d urge checking it out!

  2. Alessandra says:

    Happy (belated) birthday

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