Size Doesn’t Matter (191): What to Say Next; Same Difference

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

Size Doesn’t Matter (191): What to Say Next; Same DifferenceWhat to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte BFYR on July 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 292
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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four-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things was really cute and fun, but What to Say Next has thoroughly convinced me of what a talent she is. After this book, it’s a guarantee I’ll be trying whatever she writes subsequently.

Buxbaum beautifully utilizes dual POV narration in What to Say Next. When done right, multiple first person narratives are my absolute favorite storytelling style, but they’re so hard to pull off effectively. Buxbaum does this so well, with two voices that couldn’t be confused for one another and strong characterization. Admittedly, I did consistently prefer David’s narration (though some of this is due to subject matter—I’m never as into grief stories), but both David and Kit are well-written.

David’s on the Autistic spectrum (Asperger’s syndrome likely, if you subscribe to an outdated DSM). He’s brilliant, and he’s happy with what he has. He sits alone at lunch everyday and listens to music as he navigates the high school halls, to tune out the noise that upsets him. Though bullied when he was younger, he’s figured out how to avoid notice. His sister is his best friend, and she always gives him advice on social interaction when he requests it, which he does a lot after his crush Kit Lowell sits down at his lunch table.

Following her dad’s tragic death, Kit can’t sit with her friends anymore. They’re ready for her to move on, and she’s not ready to do that. She sits with David because she thinks he’ll leave her alone. She’s surprised when he talks to her, and she’s even more surprised by how much she appreciates his brutal honesty and bluntness. Where everyone else pussyfoots around her dad’s death, he comes right out and says it.

Though there is a romantic element between Kit and David, the friendship between them is more palpable and more moving. I like that, though I hope they make it work as a couple, I know they’ll be amazing friends going forward. I really love stories that focus on how two people connect, miscommunicate, and then work through their fights. Kit and David have trouble understanding each other sometimes, but they talk it out and move to greater levels of friendship. It’s beautiful and healthy.

What to Say Next is a beautiful book. I didn’t get the feels quite as much as I might have hoped, but I absolutely really liked everything about this book.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (191): What to Say Next; Same DifferenceSame Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
Published by First Second on December 6, 2011
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 96
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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three-stars

When Derek Kirk Kim (The Eternal Smile) published his debut graphic novel back in 2003, it made an immediate stir. The story about a group of young people navigating adulthood and personal relationships is told with such sympathy and perception that the book was immediately hailed as an important new work.

Seven years later, it's clear that Same Difference has won a place among the great literature of the last decade. It stands not only with Fun Home, Persepolis, and American Born Chinese as a lasting graphic novel, but with much of the best fiction of this young century. Derek's distinctive voice as an author, coupled with his clear, crisp, expressive art has made this story a classic. And this classic is now back in print, in a deluxe edition from First Second.

I keep meaning to read more graphic novels, but, since I started blogging, I’ve not made much time for manga or graphic novels. Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference appealed to me because the cover looked cute and possibly shippy. TBH, I was pretty wrong about what this book would be, but it was good, albeit strange and unexpected.

What I thought would be about romance is actually more of a meditation in being careful about how you treat others. Same Difference centers on two friends: Simon and Nancy. Both of them have plot lines about people they have done wrong to, and they come out of their experiences having learned something. The graphic novel feels complete, but it doesn’t really feel like a story in some ways. Simon and Nancy are in their early 20s, and this would technically fall under new adult, if it worked like that.

Simon rejected his friend Irene in high school, because he worried what people would think of him if he dated a blind girl. Seeing Irene again years later is the opening event of the graphic novel. He ultimately gets a chance to talk to her again and to face up to what he did. Meanwhile, Nancy has been receiving letters from a desperate man trying to win back his ex, who lived in the apartment before Nancy moved in. She becomes obsessed with the letters and ends up writing back to the man as his ex. He sends a package of presents, and Nancy decides she wants to see this man; he’s not what she expected, and she feels bad for having misled him.

Same Difference is a very strange little book. I think it’s well done and thought-provoking, but it’s more of a thought experiment than a narrative for me. Kim very much captures some of the awkward personal growth of the early 20s, but it’s also not really a character development piece, because you don’t really see them past these events either.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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