Like No Other by Una LaMarche ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 24, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: New York City, forbidden romance, diversity, family
Format read: Hardcover I purchased.
Summary: During a horrible storm in New York City, Devorah and Jaxon find themselves stuck within the confines of a broken elevator. In the every day world, Devorah and Jaxon would never be alone together. She’s a devout Hasidic Jew and he’s a West Indian black boy. But in the dark, in the unknown, they bond and their connections is forged. Will they risk everything they know for one another?
This is the thing about forbidden love. We root for it to work, iron out its creases and prosper so we can believe in the impossible too.
Even though Devorah and Jaxon’s connection is a bit instantaneous, I was immediately hooked by their intersecting stories, hoping they could get their happily ever after. In alternating chapters, we learn of Devorah’s devotion to her Hasidic upbringing and the immense love she feels for her family while we see Jaxon work his tail off to obtain the higher education his father never had, and goofing off with his friends. Despite living so closely to each other in a neighborhood in Brooklyn, Devorah and Jaxon are worlds apart until they meet in a hospital elevator during a storm.
Devorah is not allowed to be alone with a male who is not a family member but in this elevator she has no other choice to converse with Jaxon and it comes so easily. She’s straightforward and honest, and he’s a dorky kind of charming and sweet. Pretty quickly, the two realize they have found someone in one another they haven’t found before and, in the time ahead, are willing to risk quite a bit to see what this chance meeting could mean for the both of them.
While Devorah is known to be a goodie-two-shoes, she’s already begun to question her male-dominated religion, watching her older sister (who she always idolized) grow more and more submissive in her marriage to the overpowering Jacob. Unlike her sister, Devorah isn’t sure she wants to be a mother at 18 and dreams about the possibility of college instead. Why does everyone in her family have to live life the same way? Can happiness and acceptance be achieved if she chose another path?
You would think Like No Other was a thriller because I was on the edge of my couch, wondering what was going to happen to Devorah and Jaxon. I’ve been 16 before. I know there’s only so much that I could get away with before I got caught, and these two were pulling out the stops. It broke my heart but Jaxon so earnestly believed they could work through these differences, and make their families understand how real their feelings were for each other. It’s true that Jaxon may be one of my top YA male characters; he is just such a good guy and it’s not surprising either because his family, while strict, is supportive and wonderful. (His mother made me cry.)
In ways, Like No Other felt like a love letter to the diversity of New York City. There are so many of us from different backgrounds, religions, towns, and families constantly jumbled together on the busy streets or crowded subways, hitting the same coffee shops and working at the same office buildings. Most of the time we walk by each other without even acknowledging the other or truly learning about them. But we manage to coexist. Devorah and Jaxon are just two pieces of the puzzle, but I loved how Jaxon took the time to learn about her traditions and took them into account and I adored how much of their love blossomed all over New York City.
While I enjoyed reading Five Summers last year, Una LaMarche has catapulted herself into my “must buy” category with Like No Other. The intricacy of her research, the authentic look at young love, and testing her characters in a way that will make them braver, stronger human beings? It’s so impressive. Yes, young love is about romance and sex and chemistry but it’s also about self-discovery and LaMarche hits that nail on the head.
I rarely sit in one place and read in a book in a single day but I couldn’t get anything done until I finished this one. (Seriously, I was gasping, yelling, crying, and swooning!) Like No Other is one of those books that makes me proud to be a young adult lit fan.
“Too many choices tear us apart / I don’t want to live like that / Too many choices tear us apart /
I don’t want to love like that / I just want to touch your heart / May this confession be the start.” – Aida