By Angela Maria Hart
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall is exactly that, something different. What separates this novel from other books on the shelf is the ability to interweave a narrative from fourteen different viewpoints in regards to one love story. The character perspectives include a waitress at a nearby restaurant, a Starbucks’ barista, a squirrel, a bench, the love interests’ roommates and friends, their creative writing professor, bus driver, and two fellow creative writing students.
Rather than have the story be told from his or her perspective, as most novels do, Hall decided not to have either of the love interests offer their own take on the story at hand. Rather, the reader experiences their love story as if they were watching from the sidelines just as the characters’ friends and family do. Everyone around Lea and Gabe can see how perfect they are for one another; the only people who can not tell how the other feels is each other.
Personally, my favorite perspectives were the squirrel (because it offered a humorous element to the story) and their fellow creative writing student, Victor. Every time the squirrel would appear in the novel, I would think of Doug from Up, “Squirrel!” which would make me smile. Anytime something makes me, as the reader, smile, I am going to particularly enjoy that character. Also, the incorporation of the squirrel provided a nice touch to character insights. Rather than have a stereotypical interaction of a dog running up to someone to prove they are a likeable human being, both Lea and Gabe offered the squirrel food. As a writer, I appreciated this aspect of showing the reader versus telling them.
The other character I wanted to note was Victor. He has dry sense of humor and quick one liners that offered a comedic tone to his sections. Unlike the other characters, he was not emotionally invested in the outcome of Lea and Gabe’s relationship until much later on in the story. Victor would see the pair sitting near each other in class or glance at each other at just the wrong moment missing the other one look in their direction. At first, Victor was annoyed with their interactions. But, slowly, he grew to root for them as a couple. (How sweet is that? Even a sceptic was moved by them!) Additionally, Victor was present for some of Lea and Gabe’s key conversations and meetings, allowing him to offer a unique take on the dialogue and interactions. A friend or family member may have viewed Lea and Gabe’s first conversation much differently than Victor. In fact, his lack of interest in them made the moment humorous and enjoyable.
Hall was able to capture a love story over the course of one school year. Each chapter was one month in the school calendar and Lea and Gabe’s love story. The pair meet outside of a main school building, one morning in September. Then later, again, that afternoon in their creative writing class. Lea and Gabe’s professor sees their potential the moment they enter the classroom, inspiring her to subtly steer them towards one another.
It was entertaining to see how everyone around Lea and Gabe became invested in them as a couple. Even the squirrel was hoping the two would find love with each other because he noticed they smiled when they saw one another.
Also, the cover of this book is sweet and reminiscent of the story it houses. All of the little hearts along the boarder signify the love and potential for romance in the story. But, the design goes one step further and incorporates notebooks as well as textbooks (signifying Lea and Gabe’s creative writing class), two heart Starbucks’ drinks (three baristas regularly discuss their relationship potential), a Chinese food container (Lea and Gabe order the exact same meal from the same restaurant at the same time), and a small squirrel in the lower left-hand corner (for obvious reasons). There is also an outline of Gabe and Lea at the bottom of the cover sitting on a bench far apart. The bench actually has its own perspective included in the novel, making it a character. The cover alone should certainly grab someone’s attention, but the story inside will keep them engaged until they learn the outcome of Gabe and Lea’s relationship.
Lastly, I wanted to note that Hall was able to capture the essence of an undergraduate college experience with fun one liners and realistic elements that college students would be very familiar with. For instance, most colleges have a Midnight Breakfast during finals week and the campus descriptions were spot on. Hall’s writing style allows a different reading experience than other New Adult romance novels. She captured the college experience and what falling in love can be like. Her execution of varying viewpoints makes this book a must read for New Adult romance lovers.