I’ve mentioned before that one of the perks of being a librarian is getting to read some seriously awesome books before they’re actually published. The latest that I read comes out next week, on March 3, and it’s already in our system if you want to place a hold!
What I Just Read: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
What’s It About (Jacket Description): Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?
The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.
Did I Like It: Oh my gosh YES!!!
Thoughts: I just loved this book so much. Even though I know in my head that it was fantastic but not perfect, it felt perfect while I was reading it. I loved Etta as a main character in a big sort of way, which is appropriate, since she has a big sort of personality. Despite her struggles – being bullied by her ex-clique, missing her best friend, trying to recover from her eating disorder – Etta never wilts or diminishes. She just keeps flying off the page and in your face in the best possible sort of way. And even for people who have never had an eating disorder, or who aren’t bisexual, or who don’t love to dance, or who have never had ugly break-ups with friends, everything Etta deals with still feels so relatable and personal. I think it’s because ultimately, her struggle is not about any of these specific issues, but about getting to know herself, figuring out who she wants to be, learning to love herself, and being confident in who Etta really is. And I think that’s something everyone can relate to.
Aside from Etta herself, this book had a wealth of amazing characters. Bianca and James were fantastic. They were both strong in their own ways, but each struggling with some of the same self-identity issues as Etta. Mason was a lovely addition to the group, charming and likeable and never pushing Etta for anything she wasn’t comfortable with. Etta’s sister Kristina didn’t have a ton of page time, but I would read a whole other book about her if it were written. And even Etta’s bullies had personalities beyond just being mean. But while all these characters were fantastic in their own right, it still all comes back to Etta. Because the best part about each and every side character was reading about their relationships with Etta. The strange love/affection/jealousy/co-dependency she had with Rachel, the sweet devotion and strong friendship between her and Bianca, the way James’ personality complemented Etta’s so well, the difficult but super loving relationship between Etta and her mom – every relationship Etta has kept me riveted to the page, and loving reading about each and every interaction.
This book is written in a pretty stream-of-consciousness first person, so you will definitely enjoy the book a lot more if you like Etta, and like being in her head. But I suspect you’ll like Etta – she is an extremely likable, even loveable, main character, who dominates the page and had me completely absorbed in her story, so you should definitely give Not Otherwise Specified a try. I just really, really loved this book. So about what I said before, about placing that hold…