title: A Little Something Different
author: Sandy Hall
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 2/5 [in the genre] or 4/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Romantics looking for a light, cute read. Fans of rom coms.
will i read this author again?: Probably not.
will i continue the series?: N/A
My Ratings Explained
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....
the basicsA Little Something Different is a cute, fluffy romance story, but to me, it felt more like a little something of the same. It's the tried and true will-they-won't-they, lush with googly-eyed musings, cute-meets, and enough adorable to contend with a whole box of kittens. I give Hall credit for her approach; she spins the usual boy-girl narrative around by telling her story from the perspectives of 14 separate narrators. Yes. 14. That hook was enough to catch my eye, especially considering that one narrator is a squirrel. It's a great concept. Each narrator describes a snippet in the cautious courtship of Gabe and Lea, a clever manifestation of the typical concept: that everyone sees their connection except them. Unfortunately, the execution was lost on me. The narrators are so wholly absorbed with Gabe and Lea that few of them feel like real people, with unique voices. Gabe and Lea are themselves somewhat flattened, so that I had difficult believing in their connection enough to invest in it. The writing was also a little more simplistic than I prefer. While I firmly believe that many readers will love this quick, sweet read, it was a little too sugary for my cynical palate.
plot . 3/5It's recognizable to anyone with a history of rom-com viewing. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl tiptoe around each other, inexplicably attracted but too damn shy to do anything about it. Boy and girl are unsure of each other's affections due to said shyness. Boy and girl keep bumping into each other and eventually get up the nerve to talk. Romance ensues! Now, I'll admit something: my little black heart loves a rom-com as much as the next person. I've watched 27 Dresses more times than I'm comfortable saying. But what's key for a good rom-com is the drama. The conflict! The energy! The characters who develop an attraction and are thwarted until the end, who also have difficulties in their own lives, outside of the romance. The plot just didn't smack of urgency. Gabe and Lea meet, they work on a class project together, they order the same Chinese food, they chat at a party. It's certainly a realistic portrayal of stumbling college romances, but that's about it. Their connection didn't seem strong enough that I was dying for them to get together. Their obliviousness would have been great, had there been anything else going on in their lives. But even Gabe's big secret was given short shrift. I needed more of a conflict, more obstacles, to keep me going.
concept . 4/5I wouldn't normally pick up a fluffy romance, but the concept was too interesting. Not only was it a novel written from many points of view, but it was the first truly crowdsourced novel. If you don't know the back story, check out Swoon. It's basically Fiction Press for romance, except that it's run by Macmillan. Readers vote for their favorites, and the most popular become the next printed release. While I'm all for editors and curated content, I'm also a firm believer in the power of the people--and the people often love stories that a Big Six editor might pass up in the slush pile. Plus, you get the professional editing anyway, so you don't have the same problems with some (not all, don't pitchfork me) of the self-pubbed stuff out there. Awesome!
As for the book's concept, I was hooked. Every writer is a little bit of a voyeur, and I'm no exception. I make a game of narrating the lives of strangers on the subway. So I was excited to see how that would work as a romance, where the couple in question does no narration of their own. Rather, their romance unfolds through the eyes of others. Great idea, but it flagged a little in the execution. The coolest part of the concept is that each character should bring a unique perspective, a unique snippet, but many of the characters felt like replaceable mouthpieces, and they were all so weirdly obsessed with getting Gabe and Lea together that I couldn't quite believe it.
characters . 2/5Some of the narrators (hem, squirrel) are funny and cute. I mean, seriously, the squirrel is hysterical and awesome. He also epitomizes what works about this style: he observes Gabe and Lea in the context of his own life. He believes in their connection because they both sit together and give him nuts. His voice is also unique from the other 13. He worked. Other narrators worked because reminded me of myself, the coffee-shop voyeur, making up stories about strangers. In particular, the Starbucks baristas fit that bill; they spend the dull workdays gossiping about their customers and involving themselves in the Gabe-Lea saga like it's a soap opera. I even liked Victor, a self-aware choice on Hall's part. Victor is constantly annoyed by Gabe and Lea and their shy oblivousness. (Sort of like me...) However, many other narrators blend together in my head. Their only thoughts were of how to get Gabe and Lea together, and many intervened. The problem? I didn't really feel like Gabe and Lea were that destined. They were attracted to each other, sure, but nothing about them screamed star-crossed. So the narrators' rabid obsession with pairing them just seemed forced.
style . 3/5I'm a little snobby when it comes to prose. I like the kind of writing that takes care with each word, paints pictures, takes pride in its own precision. Hall's writing is clean and perfectly fine, but it didn't stick out to me. There were no phrases that made me dog-ear the page. She definitely had her funny moments, but I would have liked to see more of that wit come out in the exposition. The style was also a little samey when it came to each of the narrators; everyone seemed to speak and think the same.
mechanics . 3/5The dialogue in this book sometimes grated on me. There would be long pages of dialogue without tags, so I'd forget who was speaking. Or the characters would be speaking about something that was much more exposition-worthy, something that no person would realistically say. Or their dialogue had a stilted, wooden quality. Some of the dialogue was very natural and enjoyable, but enough of it suffered the above problems that I was frequently pulled out of the story.
take home message
A fluffy, light romance with a solid concept but a lack of meat in the execution.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.