Rather than spend another summer lazing by the pool with her best friend, she'll attend an art program in Philadelphia. For a few days a week, she will be on her own in the city, surrounded by strangers, free to be someone else -- or is it her real self? -- in a way that she's never been before.
This is my first Siobhan Vivian (after finishing it, I went through boxes until I unearthed her first book, which is now at the top of my Post Cybils Pile), and more than anyone else, she reminded me of Cecil Castellucci. There's something similar in her style (at least in Same Difference) -- Emily doesn't really know herself (or other people), and she doesn't know that she doesn't know. She isn't prone to Big Emotional Outbursts (even in her own head). But, through her description of her interactions and her experiences, I was able to see and feel what was going on under the surface -- even when she wasn't aware of (or refused to see) -- it.
She's an interesting, very real sort of person, and she's full of contradictions. She comes back from Philly, expecting people to suddenly Take Her Art Seriously, and when they act the way they've always acted, she writes them off as immature and obnoxious and close-minded. But, without realizing it, she herself is hugely arrogant and close-minded:
"Well, you come from creative parents, too," Mom says. "So don't sell yourself short. Your father has to be extremely creative in his job."
"He's a salesman, Mom." I shake my head. "Sales is not creative."
"Hey," Dad whines.
"Theater is art," Mom says. She takes the wine that Mr. Mundy offers her and clinks her fork against her glass like she's made some incredible point. "Every property requires a new performance."
How could she think that's even close to the same thing? "Dad's not on Broadway. He's selling office space to companies." I take my food back to my lounge chair.
"I agree with your mom," Meg says, joining me. She starts cutting her lettuce. I don't know anyone else who cuts their lettuce. "Rich works a 'typical' job, but he's very creative."
I laugh. I can't help it.
At first, she doesn't see that in trying to Become An Artist in the way that many of her new classmates Are Artists, she's just trying to hop from one box to another -- rather than what she supposedly wants, which is to be Free From The Boxes. She's got a lot to learn.
I did find the romance somewhat problematic. I didn't really find her a very sympathetic character -- I understood her rather than LIKED her -- so it was hard for me to understand someone liking her enough to think romance. But that's my only real complaint, and that's probably a pretty personal reaction. Overall, I thought it was an excellent portrayal of someone trying her damnedest to be herself, even though she hasn't realized that she doesn't really know what or who "herself" is.
Looking back over this, I've realized that as I focused so much on the character-study aspect of the book, I didn't mention that Same Difference is also an excellent, mostly quiet and restrained, look at how friendships change. And at how friendships can be salvaged.
Thumbs up. It was just... good.
Book source/other info: Review copy from the publisher; Cybils nominee.
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