Archive | 10:11 AM

Book Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarche (4/5)

10 Oct

I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book. The audiobooks I’ve gotten through my library’s YA summer reading have been hit or miss for me but this one was thankfully a great hit. It wasn’t predictable, which I was afraid it would be. It was a very welcome surprise.

Cover image via Amazon

Like no Other by Una LaMarche

Summary from Amazon:

Fate brought them together. Will life tear them apart? Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing. Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters). They’ve spent their entire lives in Brooklyn on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed…until one day they did.

When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair become stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection. Though their relationship is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jaxon arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I found Devorah and Jaxon both relatable and well rounded and I found their story believable and compelling. Overall, a good read with great characters! I loved that Devorah was Hasidic. It was really unique and different from other books I’ve read. I watched a Netflix documentary, One of Us, about some of the negative sides of the community so I appreciated this conflicting viewpoint. While Devorah found some elements of her community restrictive, she still loves it and sees the value which I thought was really beautiful.

I found Jaxon a good ‘every man’ for this story Devorah’s culture needed a lot of explaining so making Jax very relatable and giving him a background that’s more generally understood was a good contrast. Even though the focus seems to be on Devorah, Jaxon has a good character arc and I saw a lot of emotions in him that I remembered from high school. The supporting characters were well done, too. I especially loved Rose and I found Devorah’s mother really interesting.

Although she got no dialogue and only a brief appearance, I thought Ruchy Silverman was the most interesting addition to this book. She never appears in person but she has a profound affect on Devorah. It’s the first time she thinks about what happens to someone who goes against the community and is shunned. Seeing that it’s hard for her parents to break from their daughter, to ignore their grandson, really changes Devorah and empowers her to push back. I thought this was a really great way for the author to incorporate a character without giving her a voice.

I remember young love. I don’t think I was ever as ‘head over heels’ as Jax and Devorah, but friends might disagree. I will say I never took risks as big as them! I thought it was very real how Jaxon never thought about the consequences Devorah would suffer for things he thought were romantic or commonplace. No amount of Googling will ever put you in someone else’s shoes completely. That’s a hard lesson to learn and I think by the end of the book, he was starting to see it.

I’m going to spoil the ending here so skip to the next paragraph to ignore that. I liked how realistic the ending was. Devorah suffered consequences for some bold actions, she didn’t leave her family for Jaxon, and she stood up for herself. I thought it was the best ending she could have hoped for. The ending wasn’t great for Jaxon, but I think the relationship with Devorah helped him grow.

Una LaMarche
Image via Goodreads

Some of Jaxon’s actions really bothered me. He didn’t seem to respect Devorah’s boundaries at times and I thought she should have been more angry than she was. He thought he was being cute, but he was putting her safety at risk. Their relationship didn’t always seem healthy though both seemed to have good intentions.

The audiobook was narrated by Phoebe Strole and Leslie Odom Jr. I thought both did an incredible job with this story. I don’t speak Hebrew so I was glad Strole was pronouncing a lot of those words for me and I didn’t have to read them and butcher them in my head. Odom gave great weight to Jaxon’s anxiety and frustrations. I liked that this had two narrators for the two very different voices. I think it might have suffered from a single reader.

Sometimes, two people are too different. Sometimes, the best of intentions come at the wrong time. Sometimes, family is more powerful than anything else. Devorah seemed to know this but started to question it. Jaxon didn’t realize it. Both had to come to some harsh realizations about how we might live close together but our worlds are galaxies away. I liked this story and the culture clash it illustrated. Sometimes we don’t realize what we take for granted as normal and how someone else might view it as foreign. I liked how Devorah and Jaxon explored each other’s cultures. This could have easily been one sided with Devorah coming ‘into’ popular culture but I appreciated how Jaxon learned about Jewish laws as best he could and how he could respect them.

Writer’s Takeaway: Taking your reader into a very niche world, like the Hasidic community, can be a lot to pack into a fictional novel. Having a character like Jaxon who is exploring it with the reader, who has to learn and who makes mistakes, helps make it feel less like a lesson and more like a story. Contrasting Devorah and Jaxon was great. If Devorah’s story had been with another Hasidic boy, like the one she meets toward the end and whose name I can’t remember, there would have been countless times something either had to be explained or that the reader would have been frustrated with not understanding. I loved the two together.

Overall, a solid book. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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