Title: Like No Other
Author: Una LaMarche
Publisher: Razor Bill
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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 becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection.
Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up? (Source: Goodreads)
This book amazed me and made me feel so many things, and I’m not talking the usual scale of happiness and sadness and anger, I’m talk full on anxiety, exasperation, desperation, all kind of things many other books might tell you to feel but fail to make you feel. This book is a new, well maybe not too new considering West Side Story exists, but…a new take on Romeo and Juliet. I think this is probably my favourite version of the Romeo and Juliet story I’ve come across because it’s moving and interesting and has a lot of important journeys that the characters have to go through beyond the love story. I think in my initial reaction to this book I didn’t consider these journeys because I’m such a sucker for a love story, and I think that Devorah and Jaxon might have gotten caught up in their own love story too, but I think in the end this all comes together as the main thing that you really take away from this. There’s a lot of stuff in this book that is so, so right and not a lot that I dislike, so let’s get to it.
Devorah, to begin with, was raised in a Hasidic community and she has, up to this point, remained quite devout and strict in her observance of the practices of the religion. When she meets Jaxon a lot of things change, some of this has to do with love y’know the normal stuff learning about a new person being curious about their world, but this also opens up a lot of other things in Devorah. She becomes curious about not just Jaxon’s world but what the world has to offer for her beyond what someone else has decided for her. I think Devorah’s journey is really important because it’s about freedom, and finding yourself, and knowing who you are, or maybe not knowing but wanting to have the freedom to find out. Which is basically the journey everyone has to go through at some point and I think it works so beautiful through the voice of this girl who hasn’t been allowed any decisions before. It also works within the context of the Romeo and Juliet story because I think it adds a lot of extra depth to the story. I thought Devorah was one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in ages, I wanted to read about her more and more, and even with the (absolutely beautiful) ending of the story I wanted more. I want to see what Devorah does with the world, because she’ll do something important, I can guarantee that. Devorah is just all kinds of awesome and interesting.
As an aside, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Hasidic Judaism, I do have some from studying religion and studying Jewish history, so I won’t comment on the accuracy of the religious information, all of which comes through from Devorah, but I have been led to understand it is well researched and quite accurate, the things I did understand prior to reading the book matched up with what was in the book, which I think is really great of LaMarche to try and be as accurate as possible.
Jaxon is this tall, nerdy, Caribbean kid who is loving and adorable, he helps to take care of his legion of sisters, and it’s really cute to see these interactions in the book. I think it’s more difficult to really see why Jaxon falls in love with Devorah, I don’t think there needs to be a reason, but if you need to identify one it’s probably because she’s different and interesting and it’s for all the same reasons you love her. I found Jaxon cute and romantic, is a little rushed in his romance. It all fits into that Romeo archetype I suppose, but I felt a little worried for him because he was so anxious to start a life with Devorah in such a short time. I think a big part of Jaxon that people might forget about is the journey he goes through. It’s obvious that Jaxon’s part in this relationship is a little easier, (maybe a spoiler!: I mean physically he gets kind of the bad end), but he has to worry less because his family is more open to Devorah and he doesn’t have so much working against him. However, he still has something to learn in all of this. I think Jaxon seems a little unsure about the future, a little still not trying to accomplish anything, but by the end of the book I think he learns a lot about himself and gains quite a bit of forward momentum towards the future and towards making more decisions for himself in the future beyond just the expectation that he’ll attend university. I found this was a somewhat overlooked part of the character, certainly in reviews I’ve read, but I think it’s important. Maybe what Jaxon struggles with isn’t as difficult but it plays a big part in forming who he is.
Other characters form a strong sense of community and the world in this book. I think the family acts a really important piece of the book and I really got the sense that LaMarche knew they needed a really strong presence. I really enjoyed that because the families in both cases are really important to who Jaxon and Devorah are. They’re also really important to the decision making of both teens, and I thought LaMarche’s use of the families was really excellent.
Beyond characters, though they’re the driving force of this amazing book, the writing is really excellent. I found LaMarche’s prose engaging and often beautiful. As I said before, LaMarche made me feel a lot of things and I think that comes from the characters and setting the scene. The way she built up the characters and the world was really excellent.
I highly recommend this book because it’s really excellent, with fantastic character development and beautiful prose. I would say this is something of a must-read adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in fact because it is definitely one that made me think and feel a lot more than any other has ever been capable of doing.
Have you read Like No Other? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Una LaMarche at her website, other website, Goodreads, and Twitter.
Connect with me on Goodreads, BlogLovin, and Twitter.