Sandy Hall, rather than telling the romance from the perspectives of one or both people involved in the romances, chooses to use pretty much every other perspective possible. This technique could easily fail, but Hall pulls it off. You know that quote about how it takes a village? Well, it takes a campus to get Gabe and Lea together. Everyone from baristas to bus drivers to professors to family are all rooting for these too super shy kids to realize that they both actually like each other and make a move. As always with multiple points of view, it’s interesting to see Gabe and Lea through assorted different lenses.
The POVs aren’t all the most distinct, but most of the sections are short enough it doesn’t really matter. When they’re all in groups, though, I would occasionally lose track of whether I was in Maribel’s head, Sam’s, or Casey’s. My favorite narrators were, strangely enough, bench and squirrel. Yeah, I’m being serious. On top of all the human narrators, Hall includes a campus bench and a squirrel. This is done to allow for the observation of some moments that occur without any human witnesses. It’s silly, yes, but also their POVs are both hilarious and delightfully distinct. It is in this creativity that the book most shines.
The other real draw I felt to A Little Something Different was how truly collegiate it felt. Hall includes things like midnight breakfast, which is indeed much better than regular breakfast despite them having the exact same food. Though the school is most obviously not mine, the experiences fit so well with my experiences, that I was definitely setting it at my alma mater a lot of the time. Also, the college in A Little Something Different is diverse, from the main characters through the cast. There’s no stereotyping at all and it’s never a big thing; it’s just real.
What Left Me Wanting More:
However, there were also some things that impinged on my enjoyment. For one, I don’t really ship Gabe and Lea. I mean, at first, it was cute, but I got frustrated. I mean, holy shit, they didn’t even speak to each other for months. It took a full year to get this relationship off the ground, even though they both really wanted it. I don’t remember any college romances being so patient. Things tended to move pretty quickly, because in college you’re together constantly and every day feels like a week in adult life, or maybe even more. So the pacing was a problem. By the end, I definitely was more rooting for them to realize that if they have nothing to talk about ever, then it’s probably not going to work out, no matter how cute they both are.
Then there’s Inga, their creative writing professor. Gabe and Lea meet in the class and quickly become her ship of the year. I think it’s cute that Inga likes to choose a couple every year and to root for them to hook up. It’s even fine that she tries to orchestrate as much as she can to help them realize they should be together. Her scenes with her wife, Pam, are great too. Unfortunately, though, I think Inga should be fired. She allows her feelings about her students to impact her grading. She thinks that she has to give Gabe an A for a piece of writing because he’s confessed feelings for Lea, without considering whether the writing itself actually merits the A. More damning, Inga tries to talk Hillary, another student, out of taking the second semester course, not because she doesn’t think Hillary’s a good enough writer, but because Hillary has a crush on Gabe and was getting in the way. Not liking HIllary personally is one thing, but trying to talk her out of a class because she doesn’t like Hillary is unprofessional.
Oh, Hillary. I have no doubt I would hate Hillary myself. She’s not very likable and not my sort of person. However, I do think the way this book treats her is over the top. Every single POV character that ever encounters her comments on how awful she is. Her sin? Trying to ask Gabe out. In a book about two people who are totally into one another and won’t make a move, I rather admire Hillary her forthrightness. Lea, maybe instead of calling Hillary names, you should follow her example and ask Gabe out. If you like it, the you should have put some effort in.
The Final Verdict:
A Little Something Different is a very fun read, though I’m left with a few qualms. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for something light, fluffy, and, well, a little different.