Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
Emily feels like a third wheel now that her best friend Meg has a boyfriend. So when Emily gets the chance to attend a summer art program in Philadelphia, she decides to go even though she has never considered herself a real artist. Emily’s summer is split between the big city and her suburban home. She discovers new things about herself and makes a new best friend, Fiona, who is also an artist. Emily’s friendship with Meg and her relationship with her family suffer as she realizes that she is changing while everyone at home is staying the same. This is a book about finding who you really are when you don’t know who in the world that is.
Vivian’s tone here is perfection. Readers see the world through Emily’s eyes and by the end of the book are understanding that Emily is not seeing things as clearly as she first thought. The book could easily have been one of an artist fleeing their suburban roots, but Vivian makes it much more than that as Emily realizes that home and the past are vital pieces of her too.
The book has just enough tension to keep things interesting but never moves into melodrama or excess. There is a natural rhythm to the book, making it all ring true. Vivian’s characterizations are also nicely done, with even secondary characters shown as complex and surprising.
Highly recommended, this novel will appeal to many teens who see themselves as not fitting in with their background or family or friends. It is a classic dilemma faced by adolescents that is captured in a wonderfully drawn novel. Appropriate for ages 13-17.