Author: Hannah Moskowitz
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Shelf: Realistic Fiction
Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown. Everywhere she turns, someone feels she's too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself? The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.
Etta is a mess of a person and it pointedly comes across in her narration, with trademark Moskowitz rambling sentences of paragraphs, and boy did I enjoy it.
On top of that, you have Etta herself with a crazy, maybe stolen, personality. A BIG personality. She’s the kind of bouncy, excited person with whom you actually understand what a big personality means besides the obvious euphemisms.
Etta’s orientation is bisexual and she used to be a part of the Disco Dykes at an all girls’ private school. They have been inimical towards her, however, since she got together with a boy. A SHAME TO TEH LGBT COMMUNITY AND OUR PRIDE, she is, they say, never mind that there’s also a ‘B’ in there somewhere. She’s also kinda, sorta anorexic or toiling towards it and the object of shit-load of bullying. Not to mention the fact that somebody on this side of the story is pining away for a lost girlfriend and best friend and times of the past.
Her life’s kinda a mess, too. She is Etta Not Otherwise.
She’s still happy though. And that’s the mystery. And a bit of a tragedy.
I keep repeating the word: mess. That’s the one true description of Not Otherwise Specified, if perhaps a bit misleading and/or incomplete. It’s a sort of deliberate, acceptable mess that works.
There are so many threads to follow in her story that Etta herself gets confused and tangles them up. A major theme is friendship and self formation. Etta is all up in others’ business and wishes others were in hers. She lets her future be shaped by whims not her own.
Etta knows all about doing right by herself, feeling secure and shit and all that, but it doesn’t mean she works that way in reality.
It’s a great story wherein a girl learns, with many hitches and backtracks, to own herself.
One of the things I appreciated most about Hannah Moskowitz‘s soon-to-be-pub book is that despite all the in-your-face-political-correctness that the characters learn/try to preach/want, the story itself is more subtle about shitting on labels, pardon my french-ness.
Etta finds new friends in a sylph of a girl, Bianca, and makes her her pet project, though she wouldn’t admit so. She goes after Bianca, tries to save her so desperately, defends her and in there, in that frenzy, you can see there’s more to it than just bringing a beloved back to life; it’s more personal, more selfish. Etta focuses the energy she can’t to rescue herself on Bianca and there our story goes.
It’s not my favorite* Moskowitz but still a great read. Better than many recently but I guess, I wanted something a little more: to put it plainly, sometimes the story annoyed me. And felt a bit repetitive. Etta also constantly defends Bianca with the excuse that the latter is only fourteen, which in turn got old and inadequate as an explanation/plea too soon. However, overall, a wonderful and original addition to the literary, and in particular, young adult fiction, world. Not your usual diatribe or trivialities.
SPOILER: I REALLY liked Mason. Why did they have to brrrrreak up?
*Actually, it’s the only HM book that’s not my favorite.
Review copy provided by Simon Pulse in exchange for my memories of My Little Pony. Thankfully I had few and not very pleasant ones at that.