Veronika and the three other girls who live with her on an isolated island are mostly the same except for their hair color, but when plane crash victim May washes up on shore, Veronika begins to think in ways she’s never thought before, even as May pushes her to wake up to a truth she’s not equipped to face.
Gordon Dahlquist’s background as a playwright is evident throughout The Different Girl. He’s not afraid to come at things sideways, and trusts the reader to be able to fill into the blanks. His dialogue is packed with subtext, which is refreshing since both the sci-fi and YA genres tend to rely heavily on expository, on-the-nose conversations. I am not sure I am completely satisfied by the ending, but the world is haunting and staying with me. For those who felt like the book didn’t deliver a fully realized world, I disagree. Dahlquist gives us a haunting, terrifying image in one of the final sequences that tells us everything we need to know about the identity of the girls and the threat that they face. I think a second re-read would reveal more layers and bring the reader closer to a “solution” for the mystery of May. I’m reminded of Never Let Me Go, a flawless book that’s an all-time favorite of mine, and one that yields a fresh harvest of depth every time I read it. The Different Girl isn’t quite on that level, but Dahlquist aims high and gets admirably far.