Sold in a heated auction, debut author Meredith Jeffers’s intricate YA novel is part mystery, part Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and part HBO’s The Flight Attendant. The perfect combination of plot-filled page-turner and powerful coming-of-age tale, NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS announces Meredith as a major new voice in YA fiction.
NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS
by Meredith Jeffers
Bloomsbury, Spring 2024
(via Writers House)
I think, inexplicably, of another photo. Last fall, late October. The night of the bonfire at Durand Eastman Beach. In the photo, I wear tight denim shorts, beat-up white Keds, a black zip-up that isn’t mine. It’s bad enough how I tilt my head, just so, a hickey bruised on the curve of my neck, but even worse is my smile. Sly. Coy. Like I know more in this moment than some girls ever know. I didn’t know shit. I especially didn’t know that when the night sky filled with stars, when the fire hissed, half-dead, when every phone pinged with SIX NEW PHOTOS, I’d so seamlessly become the worst of me: Jo at seventeen, outcast. But I guess that’s the trouble with girls like me. We always get what we deserve.
Seventeen-year-old Jo-Lynn Kirby used to be “brace-faced but beautiful, a tiara pinned in her sun-streaked hair.” She used to be “sophomore class president, stunned at her landslide victory […], June’s Scooper of the Month at Costello’s Frozen Custard, posing a touch too proudly with her bonus check. . . ” but now she’s. . . just not. Now Jo is a wild girl, reckless girl, difficult girl, who rolls her eyes a little too much, whose grades have plummeted to the point that she’s on academic probation; now Jo is the girl whose Nudes were leaked to the entire school. And then her former best friend: pretty, nice, Maddie Price, uncharacteristically, cryptically, and desperately asks Jo for help—telling Jo she’s in trouble, that she thinks Jo can help her—just hours before Maddie disappears.
What quickly seems to the community like a simple runaway doesn’t add up that way to Jo-Lynn—and it doesn’t seem that way to Jo’s classmate and Eastman High’s Salutatorian Hudson Harper-Moore either. To dig deeper into Maddie’s disappearance, Jo needs to get in with, and back with, the group of classmates she left behind—and Jo and Hudson decide the only way to seamlessly do that is to pretend they’re dating. But for Jo, going back to social life from social outcast means she must confront all she’d rather leave behind: the boys who betrayed her; the girls who whisper that she had it coming; the secrets that tore her and Maddie apart. Yet as Jo finds allies in girls she once alienated, a true mentor in her Senior Experience Journalism supervisor, and as she develops very real feelings for Hudson, she risks losing more than she ever knew she wanted. . . as the clues to Maddie’s disappearance pull Jo deeper and deeper into a web of lies, whose stories can and can’t Jo trust? Especially when she’s still figuring out her own story, and her own truth. . .
Meredith Jeffers is a writer from (snowy, gray) Rochester, New York, who now lives in (hot, humid) North Carolina, where she recently earned her graduate degree in Library Science from UNC-Chapel Hill. There, she specialized in youth services and created a social justice-driven book club toolkit as a resource for YA librarians for her Master’s project. Meredith previously earned her MFA in Nonfiction from West Virginia University in 2018 and received a Pushcart Prize nomination the same year.