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The Different Girl Hardcover – February 21, 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-With The Different Girl, Dahlquist presents a cryptic vision of the future through the eyes of artificial intelligence. Life has always been the same for four teens. The girls study their island with the help of their teachers. Each day is the same: walking and talking and building upon the things they learned in the days before until it is time for the teachers to put them to sleep. But when May arrives, life begins to change at a frightening pace. The narrator, Veronika, knows only what her teachers tell her and what she is able to observe. Readers must rely heavily on imagination and inference to puzzle out the circumstances of the world beyond the island and the extreme secrecy that seems to surround the four robotic girls and their handlers. Fans of science fiction and dystopian societies will find plenty to pique their interest, but little to satisfy their questions.-Sara Saxton, Tuzzy Consortium Library, Barrow, AKα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Told from the perspective of one of four identical, but not interchangeable, girls isolated on an island with their two adult caretakers, Dahlquist’s introspective sf novel asks readers to ponder the nature of thinking itself. Veronika has red hair, and in the beginning that’s how she differentiates herself—her sisters’ hair colors are black (Eleanor), yellow (Isobel), and brown (Caroline). Every day they meticulously observe their surroundings and report to Irene and Robbert, who are teaching them to think for themselves instead of as a unit. Their patterns are disrupted when May shipwrecks on the island, bringing trouble, and the girls must learn new ways to survive. Spoiler alert: the girls are androids, something that becomes clear as Veronika tells of her awakening, but her limited understanding of the larger picture may frustrate readers, as could the lack of a fully realized world. On the other hand, the unanswered questions will make for great discussions: Why is their existence secret? What is their purpose? Who attacks the island and why? Readers will no doubt want to know. Grades 7-10. --Krista Hutley
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (February 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525425977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525425977
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. DAVIDSON on May 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I should say first off, I'm an adult reader, a novelist myself (have published a couple YA books as well as two more clearly directed at an adult readership). This novel is subtle and complex, more like Kazuo Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO than like THE HUNGER GAMES - I think some of the negative reviews here have to do with thwarted expectations. Beautifully written, haunting, memorable - it reminded me a little of John Christopher's novels, which I loved as a child. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
The Different Girl is well different. I'm not a big fan of sci fi, but the premise of this book really intrigued me. The first 50 pages of the book are a bit difficult to get through, but that's because you are given a look into the day in and day out life of the characters in the story.

The Different Girl centers around four identical androids who have different colored hair to differentiate between them. They are looked after by their caretakers Robbert and Irene. The androids are Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor. The story is told from Veronika's point of view. And I must say it is interesting to read a book from an android's point of view. Especially when the android believes that they are human, and their lives are normal. Now unfortunately for the reader, we never find out what the purpose of the androids were. We never find out why or even how they were created. This was a major letdown.

This book is probably not really for your average young adult reader, and I'm not even sure it's for your average sci fi fan. There is a mix between sci fi and contemporary, and personally I don't think it worked out very well for this novel. I think that it gives a good message about friendship, and accepting people for their differences.

My favorite part of the book was Veronika's interactions with May. May is a human girl who found herself on the island that the androids were on after her ship was wrecked. May's reactions to the androids were probably what your average person's would be. First there was fear, then anger, then a mild curiosity, and finally acceptance. It was very entertaining to see her relationship with Veronika evolve.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of Dahlquist's Glass Books trilogy and, naturally, looked forward to The Different Girl. However, since it is for the YA market, I gave it to my 12-year-old daughter to read before reviewing it. She promptly noticed the earring on the cover of the book and said, "Something to do with robotics?". Even though, she clued into a major aspect of the book before opening it, she was enthralled and sometimes puzzled by The Different Girl. "This is strange," she said and kept reading. "Hunh," she said and kept reading. She finished it in one sitting.

Unlike the rather baroque steampunk-ish Victorian fantasy world of the Glass Books, The Different Girl takes place on a mostly deserted island. The outer world seems both remote and, somehow, dystopian. The sense of the island and the characters is quietly effective. My daughter noticed that the narrator, Veronika, while possessing self-awareness, also "thinks" and analyzes like a computer. She is subtly alien.

While some of the more critical reviews have commented that they've seen similar ideas in 1950s SF, I think that's kind of missing the point. Manmade humans as a concept date back to Frankenstein, while robots date back to the Czech play R.U.R. The Different Girl flips the traditional narrative by making the machine the protagonist and giving her her own bildungsroman.

Because the novel is quite inward, it's not really for the 10-and-under set, no matter how precocious. I'd put it more at middle school and up. While it's not a hard read, it is best suited to kids who want to think about ideas than, say, worry about whether Bella Swann and Edward will ever, ever get together.
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Format: Hardcover
This book felt unfinished to me. Though the blurb on the back of the book is correct - it is unsettling. Because the narrator is one of the girls, the tone is very flat and almost devoid of any emotion save confusion. It's not hard to figure out what the girls are, but why they exist is a question that's never answered to my satisfaction. I cared about that much more than I cared about May and the drama created by her arrival. If the author wasn't going to flesh out this world and the situation they were living in, then he should have cut out some of the middle and turned it into a really good short story. Instead, we get a novel with missing pieces.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoy Dahlquist and this latest book is no exception. It was an easy read and very cleverly thought out. The characters were real enough to be likeable and the plot, although it appears on the surface to be shallow, is actually pretty thought provoking and give just enough of a hint of deeper meaning to make you think about it long after the last page is complete. Although I don't think one is forthcoming, I would love to see a sequel for this.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book based strictly upon the synopsis provided by its product page on Amazon. It sounded like an intriguing and highly original work and was fairly presented in that regard.

The narrator, Veronika, is one of four "girls" that inhabit a remote island with two adults (Robbert and Irene) that act as their caretakers and instructors. The girls are identical in every respect except hair color. They live a highly regimented life, constantly instructed by their caretakers with a focus on perception and awareness of surroundings. We know from the start that we are dealing with a very unusual situation, as the author drops little hints that eventually lead us to an understanding of the nature of the girls and their relationship with Robbert and Irene.

The story increases in complexity with the arrival of a shipwreck victim, a girl named May, who is quite different from the other girls. The interaction between May and Veronika and the intervention (both anticipated and realized) of the outside world form the basis of the remainder of the work.

This novella is easily read in about three hours. While it is highly unusual, and maintained my interest, I must say that for long stretches of the story, very little if anything happens. Much time is spent describing and analyzing very mundane situations and natural occurrences as seen through innocent and naïve eyes. Were this story much longer, it would soon become quite boring and pedantic. I have seen the book described as a great "middle" in search of a beginning and end, and I cannot disagree. Perhaps a prequel and sequel are on the horizon. If so, I'm not sure I'm a customer.
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