Book Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarche
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.
1. You Gotta Have Faith
This is the first book I have ever read from the point of view of a Hasidic Jewish female, and I appreciated having this look into a religious life that I know little about. As someone who believes very much in a person’s individual agency, at times I struggled as a reader with how strict this religion was, particularly in regards to the way Devorah dressed, who she was allowed to talk to, and her education. I enjoyed watching Devorah grow, confused by some of the budding feelings and her attempts to balance those feelings out with her personal religious conviction. And I thought it was important that LaMarche showed that one can question the tenants of their faith without completely rejecting one’s faith. I thought Devorah came to some decisions that were right for her and left her personally in a satisfying place in regards to both her faith and her future.
2. Let’s Talk About Racism
Devorah is a Hasidic Jew while Jaxon is an African American boy. Both of these teens have faced tremendous racism and racist stereotypes. For example, Jaxon mentions that after the Travyon Martin shooting his mother wouldn’t allow him to wear a hoodie for 6 months. LaMarche does a really good job of highlighting some of the challenges both of these people groups face in current society. She also does a really good job of discussing discrimination between these two groups, demonstrating that racism is a very complex issue that flows in many directions.
3. Family and Tradition
It is often said that YA literature doesn’t know what to do with family, especially parents. Like No Other presents a portrait of a richly developed family, messy and imperfect, but ultimately full of love for one another. As a family with a deep abiding faith, Devorah’s family gathers around a table each week. It is particularly interesting to see Devorah’s relationship with her parents bend and bulge and try to grow as she pushes boundaries and challenges some of the tenants of her faith, particularly in regard to education. I will say that the brother in law, Jacob, does seem more like a caricature of a villain at times than a fully fleshed out character.
As for Jaxon, although he is growing up in a single parent household, he has a deep love and respect for his mother and sisters and those relationships play important parts in the story as well. The strength and character of both of these young protagonists is a major appeal factor, and part of that strength can be seen in relation to their family.
4. Falling in Love
Devorah and Jaxon meet in an elevator, and from that moment on they dive into a very intense relationship. Because of Devorah’s faith, the two begin meeting in secret. Soon, they are discussing things like running away together. It all happens quickly and with a fierce intensity that we see in stories like Romeo and Juliet. And like Romeo and Juliet, we see the starcrossed lovers being challenged from outside forces that push them to make a variety of what seems like irrational decisions. But unlike Romeo and Juliet, the two teens ultimately have some real moments of introspection that allow them to balance personal desire with real life expectations. Those moments of insecurity and passion of first love are captured with full force in the pages of this book.
5.The Elevator Scene
When we first meet Devorah, she is at the hospital helping her sister deliver a pre-term baby. A storm is brewing. Jaxon ends up coming in with a friend who has hurt himself. Devorah and Jaxon get on an elevator and then the power goes out, leaving the two of them trapped. Devorah is not technically allowed to talk to Jaxon because her faith forbids her to talk to strange men. Jaxon, of course, knows little about her faith and assumes she is terrified to be trapped in an elevator with a black man. Soon the two of them are forced to speak to one another and a spark is ignited. I really liked this scene and thought it set up perfectly everything that follows. The intensity of emotion and the obstacles to their relationship are clearly established in this scene. What follows is an emotional roller coaster ride of first love, insecurity, challenge, and ultimately finding oneself in a world that wants to tell you who you are.
Teens looking for a love story will not be disappointed here, and Like No Other adds a lot of rich discussion to topics of faith, racism, family and being true to oneself. Definitely check it out. One of Publishers Weekly’sBest Books of Summer 2014, one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 5 YA Books to Watch, and a 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection.
Coming in July 2014 from Razorbill. ISBN: 978-1-59514-674-8.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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