The book I’m reviewing this week is ‘Like No Other’ by Una Lamarche. In many ways, this novel is an updated Romeo and Juliet. Devorah is a devout Hasidic Jew who never questions her life or her parents. Jaxon is a book smart West Indian boy who walks the line between pleasing his family and finding fun. Devorah is not allowed to be alone with any males who are not part of her family in public areas, one of the many rules by which she lives her life. However, she finds herself breaking the rules by accident when stuck in an elevator with Jaxon during a power outage. Devorah is at the hospital helping her sister who is having her first child while Jaxon is there with his friend who had an accident while skateboarding. While stuck in the elevator they both feel a connection, a connection that both want to act upon, even after they leave each other. Through some detective work, they find each other and despite the odds and customs ingrained in them, they begin a relationship. While Jaxon has to lie to protect Devorah as his family would not have a big problem with the relationship, Devorah has to lie to her family to protect her place within it. She has always been the good girl, the one who they never have to worry about; now she’s spending time alone with a boy, has
a secret cell phone and is starting to question her path in life. Devorah faces a major obstacle in her brother in law – he’s not just observant, he’s righteous and demands obedience from all. When he begins to suspect their relationship, he will not stop until Devorah is set back on the path of right doing. Their romance comes to a dramatic head and Devorah is forced to confront her family and her faith as she deals with questioning and realizing what her life goals actually are and how they relate to her faith and her family.
This book is bittersweet and charming. The relationship reminds me of the quote from ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”. Once the relationship has begun, it is a runaway train as both come together and experience a relationship that neither ever anticipated. Devorah is a more complete character than Jaxon – she goes through the biggest changes and the most questioning. In many ways, Jaxon serves as the impetus and springboard for the change. It is his prodding that causes her to break many of the rules of her faith – rules that were part of how she has always lived and ones that bind her with her family and community. At times this is annoying – show some respect Jaxon! The girl has faith! – but it does serve the plot well and carry it forward to the ultimate conclusion. While many readers may relate more to the character of Jaxon, they will find the journey of Devorah one that is familiar.
As a reader with some knowledge of Jewish culture, I had some understanding of the Hasidic culture. This preknowledge served me well as I read about the world of Devorah. I did not have much knowledge about the community in Brooklyn where they lived or the tension that has developed between the two groups portrayed in this novel. Knowledge of both the Hasidic culture as well as the cultural history would be useful for readers. While they will understand from information presented by the characters why their relationship is not allowed, understanding the bigger picture would be useful.
I enjoyed this book – diversity was present, a relationship that was edgy while being a familiar story. Readers who enjoyed ‘Eleanor and Park’ or ‘Say What You Will’ will appreciate this take on a modern romance.
I read this book on my Kobo on August 3rd, 2014. It was published by Razorbill on July 24th, 2014 with an isbn of 9781595146748.