It isn’t often that one finds a YA fiction novel where the main character has been homeschooled, let alone unschooled. This fact alone made me want to read J.J. Johnson’s soon to be released book, This Girl is Different. Evie, an intelligent, well-read, thoughtful young woman who has unschooled throughout her life is set on attending Cornell to study social justice when she decides to experience what is her senior year at the local public school.
There tend to be two main stereotypes of homeschooling families: the strict religious homeschoolers who are over-controlling and the flaky hippie homeschoolers, portrayed as neglegient. Unfortunately, Johnson chose to go the stereotype route. So while Evie’s family situation has redeeming qualities such as living in an Earth dome, living a sustainable life, and living in a consensual manner, her mother is portayed as a communist hippie, unable or unwanting to sustain a job after getting pregnant while following a band around and leaving the drug-abusing sperm donor.
It’s disappointing that Evie decides to experience school, as though she is missing out with her real-life learning experiences. The school is protrayed realistically, though, with a totalitarian rule by adults without thought to equal rights, minus those teachers and administratos who are tied by bureacratical restraints. Evie takes the experience on as a challenge and stands for the rights of all.
The constant repeats of texting and web usage were a bit annoying, but according to today’s media, accurate of public schools today. I was also disappointed that such a strong, independent young woman immediately caved and focused on the first handsome guy she met, one whom had an issue with commitment. Evie’s constant self reminders that “This girl is different” seemed out of place and self-important.
Overall, the book was decent and I might suggest it to my children when they are older. At the least, it was a reminder to me that the world doesn’t live in a consensual manner, and my family will continue on with our unschooling lifestyle.
Disclaimer: A complimentray copy of the book was provided by Peachtree Publishers.