Like No Other

To me the greatest love story of all time is not really a love story at all. It’s a story about teenage lust and naivity. When I became a teenager myself I started to question if Romeo and Juliet were ever really in love at all. Was it just lust? Love at first sight seems so unbelievable…

But it’s Like No Other that made me understand how a person can fall so hard in just a few minutes. In the beginning of the book I believed they had fallen in love. Never did I question why that happened. To Devorah, Jaxon is the opening to a whole new world. He is the prince that unlocks the door to her tower. She’s on guard yet floored by love and while they’re stuck in an elevator something is set in motion. I like the insight that people who fall head over heels might be looking for more than just love. Perhaps they’re looking for a way out, for a new world to explore. One that’s filled with acceptance, music and yes, love.

Una LaMarche did her research. It’s almost as if she was brought up in a Jewish community herself. I can only applaud the amount of work that must have cost her. I’m not familair with the specific branch of the Jewish religion but after reading this I feel like I’ve learned a lot. It’s really fascinating to read about two completely different worlds, both unfamiliar to me. Devorah’s was really well done in terms of immersion, but Jaxon’s is also worth noting. I like how she wrote about his awareness of being a minority, from the conversations with his white friend Ryan to feeling like he needs to work hard so people won’t view him as a thief only because of his skin color. The foundations for the worlds that LaMarche let us peek into were sublime.

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Devorah’s world was really fascinating, but as a character I’m not a huge fan of her. She’s a little too quick to throw the world she knows (which is everything she knows) overboard. I get the feeling the writer was going for the when you’ve done one bad thing it just becomes easier and easier to break those habits situation, but in this case it feels fake. What I wanted to see is Devorah try to break the rules at first, but then stop halfway and have a panic attack. She would then pray very hard and lay in bed, crying for forgiveness. Later on she would find the courage to follow her own heart. At least, that’s how I would have written it.

For the longest time I thought it was only Devorah’s issue that she would throw away her beliefs, motivations and reasoning all of a sudden. But near the end there’s other characters who do too. This goes completely against what we’ve learned in the rest of the book. They’ve gone to such lengths to change the situation and then all of a sudden they agree to a compromise. I don’t feel like the writer takes me seriously as a reader. Nor herself as a writer. It’s like she got sorry for her main character so she made up this ending. And the decision that Devorah made before that just made me raise my eyebrow. After that I couldn’t care for her anymore.

I do care for Jaxon. He makes a fine prince that goes on the quest to save the damsel in distress. At times he does stupid things, but for his upbringing and character it makes sense (for Devorah it did not). I like his kind and spontaneous nature. Most of the time when he thinks about his crush he’s being ridiculous, but that’s what a teenage boy falling freely in love is. I like how he outshines other characters by being normal. He’s easily my favorite in this book.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I love the way you just know Una LaMarche has completely devoted herself to portraying accurate versions of Jaxon’s and Devorah’s world. I have a lot of respect for that. Especially the Jewish community must not have been an easy thing to write about and never in the story do you question that part of the book. Then there’s Jaxon who’s just a blast to read about. He may be as naive as Romeo was, but deep down we all want someone to fight for us the way Jaxon did. But I can’t ignore that throughout reading this book I was wondering if the writing style suffered because of the translation (I read this in Dutch). Sometimes I wondered if sentences were grammatically incorrect (happened about three times), but even if they weren’t I still thought it wasn’t a nice sentence. Overall it’s not bad, but there’s not the beautiful poetrylike prose I think a beautiful story like this deserves. I felt like this fascinating plot needed a bit more of a literary touch to better carry the story. But in the last half of the book there’s a lot of story and character choices I didn’t like. The ending being the most obvious one. I think I demand too much of some books. I had such high hopes for this, maybe I set the bar too high.

Like No Other is a novel by Una LaMarche. I read the Dutch translation.

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