Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: March 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, GLBT, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she's too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?
The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.
If you’re looking for a diverse book, look no further. Not Otherwise Specified is the picture of diversity, including a black bisexual main character, gay side characters, an asian, lesbian former best friend, religious side characters, and eating disorders.
Etta, our main character, feels like she doesn’t really belong anywhere. Due to a recent relationship with a boy, her former group of lesbian friends has cast her out. She once was bulimic, but is well on the way to recovery, in contrast to some of the members of her guidance group. She loves ballet, but doesn’t look like a ballerina: she’s too chubby, too black (unfortunately, most ballerinas are very much white), too much curves where there should be straight lines.
Throughout the book, though, she starts finding her place in the world. She learns who are true friends and where her passions lie, and that she can excel at certain things. Moskowitz subtly let Etta grow into a more grown-up version of herself. Though I immensely loved that growth, Etta had my heart from the start. She tells it like it is: she’s straightforward and not ashamed of anything. She’s tough, but not perfect: sometimes she makes mistakes, sometimes she doubts herself, sometimes she falls back into not very healthy habits. She was just such a real person.
Moskowitz also shows the struggles of being “different” from the norm. Basically, everyone who isn’t a straight white male faces a struggle, some more often that others.
If I end up marrying a guy, what the hell queer community is ever going to want me?
Etta has doubts, she struggles with herself and the world sometimes. Not Otherwise Specified is really about problems and learning to face them, to handle them. It’s about finding out what you really want in life and pursuing that dream until it becomes reality. It’s about acceptance, both of yourself and others. And above all, it was just really, really good.
The focus with Etta’s difficulties lies mainly with her sexuality (and figuring out what she wants). However, there’s also a large focus on eating disorders. Etta herself has more or less recovered from her bulimia, but her newfound friend Bianca isn’t nearly there yet when it comes to her anorexia. I thought it was handled really well, and I loved how Moskowitz focused on recovery and hope, though it never got unbelievably sappy and sunshine-y. There were ups and downs, but the final message is one of hope, and I loved that.
In all: highly recommended. Not Otherwise Specified is another gem by Hannah Moskowitz. It was written really well, with believable characters, problems many people will be able to relate to, and a whole lot of diversity.
~Thank you Simon & Schuster for the review copy!~
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