Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Release date: August 26th, 2014
Publisher: Swoon Reads (Macmillan)
Source: Print ARC from BEA14
Length: 272 pages
Rating: An imperfect yet ABSURDLY ADORABLE ode to the art of shipping.
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....
Ship mode: ACTIVATE.
|HAAAA as if my ship mode is ever deactivated|
Just in case you don't know, this is what Wikipedia defines the term "shipping" as:
Shipping, derived from the word relationship, friendship or worship, is the belief of (or desire for) two (or more) people, often fictional, to be in a romantic relationship. It is considered a general term for fans' emotional involvement with the ongoing development of romance in a work of fiction.
Just so we're all up to speed.
This book is an ode to shipping. It is for crazy romance-loving loons like me who want all the cute couples to kiss all the time and squee when they do and basically devote their whole lives to watching two fictional people come together and make out. That's not to say that you can't enjoy this book if you're not a diehard shipper, but this book is definitely about the art of shipping. It's told from fourteen different points of view, and practically every point of view actively ships two college students by the name of Gabe and Lea.
IT'S SO BLOODY CUTE. Seriously, this book is so sweet it'll give you a toothache, and I mean that in a good way. Gabe and Lea are both incredibly shy and awkward, and watching them dance around each other from the viewpoints of people who want nothing more than to shove their faces together is positively delightful. This is such an easy read and so incredibly enjoyable. I giggled almost the entire way through, because man, Sandy Hall is funny. Hilariosity abounds in the form of wisecracks, references, sarcasm, and awkward situations galore.
Plus, diversity! Lea is Chinese American, her roommate is Mexican, Gabe is Portuguese, there are characters of different sexual orientations, there are characters with disabilities... I loved that this book casually and simply captured the kind of diversity you see in the world, particularly on a college campus.
So Gabe and Lea are in this writing class together at college, and they obviously like each other, but they just can't seem to take that first step. We never get to see through their POVs and instead piece the story of their romance through the eyes of all the people around them: Sam's brother, their writing professor, a bus driver, a barista, a campus bench, and my personal favorite, Squirrel!, who is obviously a squirrel.
While I undoubtedly LOVED this book and enjoyed it so much more than I ever could have predicted, it's by no means perfect. The thing that bothered me the most was the book's treatment of poor Hillary and her highlights of skankitude. Hillary is a girl in Gabe and Lea's creative writing class, and we get a couple instances of her POV. And she's vapid, stubborn, and quite hilarious, and oh, I wouldn't want to be stuck in a class with her. BUT. She's definitely treated as the butt of the joke of the novel for reasons that are incredibly unfair. They call her a skank because... she has highlighted hair? Because she flirts with Gabe, who is an utterly unattached male? The book definitely could have cut out those elements.
Also, some of the POVs sounded pretty similar. And besides, they're all shippers? ALL of them? EVEN VICTOR, WHO HATES THEM? Why didn't Victor stay all grumpy and terse? I loved grumpy, terse Victor. His POV during the "midnight breakfast" incident was my favorite part of the entire novel. I nearly peed my pants laughing. But with every single POV, even the Chinese delivery guy, occupied by extreme, nosy, invested shippers... well, believability was strained one centimeter too far for me in the end.
|Everyone in the entire world ships Gabe and Lea. Except for poor Hillary.|
I know this is the premise, but having one POV that absolutely loathed Gabe and Lea (besides Hillary) (poor Hillary) was refreshing and funny. Victor, you went to soft, my man.
I would have liked to have gotten to know Lea and Gabe together a little better. I would have definitely liked to get to know Lea more, since we learn a lot about Gabe, who is so precious and adorable I just want to wrap him up in a big old hug. Also there are a looooot of awkward moments and near misses and miscalculations and oh my god I know why Gabe and Lea's friends and acquaintances and friendly campus squirrels wanted to get involved because if I were one of their friends I would have kidnapped the two of them and locked them in a trunk like in Ask Again Later. RESOLVE YOUR ISSUES AND COMMENCE MAKING OUT MY GOD YOU ARE SO FRUSTRATING
Those might seem like major issues, but this was still a book I loved. Straight up loved and enjoyed and want to hug. In fact, I'm hugging it right now. It was the perfect vacation read to bring joy to my shipper heart and make me insane-laugh in public. This bodes very well for the kind of books we can expect from Swoon Reads, Macmillan's brand new crowd-sourced romance imprint, and I can't wait to see what swoony adorableness they bring out next.