This Girl is Different

This Girl is Different
JJ Johnson
Peachtree Publishers, 2011

This one caught my eye from the get-go: Homeschooler Evie decides to spend senior year at public high school. As a graduate of homeschool (6th-12th grades, spending junior and senior years dual-enrolled at the community college), I am always curious to see how people represent the homeschooler-to-"real" school adventure (favorite of all favorites so far: Stargirl!)

Evie and her new friends Jacinda and Rajas are fun, engaging characters. They're very real, like high school seniors I would expect to meet wandering the halls of any high school. They meet by chance and quickly become friends - and maybe more. Evie is unlike anyone Rajas or Jacinda have ever met, and they are quickly caught up in her plans to revolutionize The Institution Of School and take down The Man. But soon their plans get out of hand, and sheer chaos erupts, tearing apart the school - and shattering their friendships. While Evie's mother is fully supportive, and even instigates a large amount, of the 'revolution,' Evie begins to wonder if perhaps there isn't a better way to bring about (needed!) social changes ... Taking the leap from homeschool to public school is a major learning experience for Evie - but also for all the students, and teachers. Lessons are learned, sometimes painfully, and everyone begins to realize there are always alternative ways to get your point across.

Now time for a mini 'rant' of sorts. I enjoyed the story - Evie made me laugh at times, and I feel like the story is largely believable. I've seen first-hand how impulsive and 'unthinking' high schoolers can be, so I could definitely see students taking advantage of the anonymity that Evie's 'lightning' plan allowed to go crazy with the personal expression idea. The one thing that did really bug me isn't unique to This Girl is Different - I've seen it in so many places, whether books or movies or what have you - and that is the idea that homeschoolers are by default radical liberals wanting to come in and change the world. Think about it: homeschoolers are almost always classified one of two ways - either painfully religious and conservative or radically liberal and freethinking. There is no middle ground or 'normal'. Stargirl comes the closest, I think, but even she is presented as very different. While it's true that there are a number of homeschoolers who match each of this stereotypes, there are more who are just 'kids' - I was one of those. Granted, I'm a little old-fashioned about some things, and haven't done a lot of what my contemporaries have - but that's been my choice, made using my own thoughts and reasons. And I've got plenty of friends who were homeschooled and are 'normal' like me - so where are the books about us? Some of us went to public school, we've almost all gone to college, what about telling our stories? Or are they not as much fun - because we're not as different and strange? Just a thought ... It always comes back to mind when I read another homeschooler novel. Anybody have any thoughts or insights?

Book provided by publisher for review.

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