A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{September 8, 2014}   Like No Other by Una LaMarche

likenootherPlot: Devorah is Hasidic and has little to no contact with people outside of her community. But when accompanying her pregnant sister to the hospital during a terrible storm, she finds herself trapped in an elevator with a young, black man. She and Jaxon strike it off immediately. Despite the rules she was raised by and always followed, despite all the difficulties, Devorah and Jaxon seek each other out and begin to fall in love.

This review is based on a review copy received through Netgalley.

I first learned about Una LaMarche when I attended SummerTeen this year. She described seeking a remaining relationship taboo in order to write a modern Romeo & Juliet story. She decided upon the Hasidic community which remains isolated and which discourages relationships with people outside the community. Hearing her talk about it really made me want to read the book.

It is very much a Romeo & Juliet story: they are not only star-crossed but also rash and ill fated. (You can guess from this that I actually don’t find Romeo & Juliet particularly romantic. 😛 ) They describe feelings of love and irresistible longing but they are together only a handful of time in the entire book. This, the risks that Jaxon takes against Devorah’s will (coming to see her when she tells her not to, calling her on a phone she should not have, etc.) and the numerous lies they tell in order to meet, make the relationship feel terribly immature to me.  It is their first love so such immaturity is understandable but it kills the romance for me. Nevertheless LaMarche does a good job of balancing their passion and the difficulties of their relationship.

More interesting to me than the romance itself was the exploration of Hasidic culture, which we see through Devorah and her family. LaMarche does this with a great deal of respect and complexity: she doesn’t describe a community that is of a single mind, but rather shows the great variety of personality and opinion (including Devorah’s terrible, self-rituous brother-in-law). Devorah is a great character. She is very intelligent, though a little naive about relationships. She is devoted to her family and “frum”, that is serious about following all the religious rules. She begins to question the path she had been born on and the rules imposed upon her. This questioning and the answers that she reaches were what kept me turning pages.

Though the romance itself struck me as immature with an uncomfortable power imbalance, we need more diverse books like this, books that explore different cultures, different ways of living and being.

2014 (#43)


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