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not otherwise specifiedWhat: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Who: Simon Pulse

When: March 3rd 2015

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster for review via Edelweiss.

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.


Not Otherwise Specified manages to tackle a lot of important and real issues without being an “issue book”, which is so important. I’m pretty much going to talk about the main themes that stood out to me when reading Not Otherwise Specified, because that’s how I roll.

1. Etta is bisexual, and open about it. She’s not hiding it from anyone, she’s open about ogling pretty boys and pretty girls alike. And I LOVED this. But Etta’s acceptance of herself, and the fact that she owns her sexuality in no way means that it was easy for her. Her friends ditched her because they’re lesbians and don’t believe Etta is “gay” enough to hang out with them. It was pretty petty and cruel, and makes Etta question herself, and think about how being bi is different to being gay and straight, because there are assumptions made based on whoever she’s with. She has a lot of painful thoughts about this, and how if she marries a guy the queer community won’t want her anymore. This broke my heart into pieces.

2. Etta is also recovering from an eating disorder, but being in recovery doesn’t mean that everything is better. She’s worried about her weight, and food – but she’s also happy with herself. And I think this is pretty accurate, whether or not you’re recovering from an eating disorder. Sometimes you feel good in your own skin, and sometimes you’re overwhelmed with fear about how you’re perceived by others.

3. Etta’s sexually active and owns it. Likes it. And I think this is SO IMPORTANT. I think way too often in YA girls are supposed to be these precious little creatures who’ve never even thought about sex, let alone wanted it and liked it. And it’s such complete bullshit that I was happy to finally have a female YA character that wanted and liked sex. *cheers all ’round*

4. Bianca is struggling with her brother, James (CUE ALL THE LOVE), being gay, and her religion. Whilst I couldn’t relate to this at all (being not at all religious), I appreciated this thread of the story. She loves her brother, and she doesn’t condemn him for being who he is, but she’s been taught all these things by the religion that she also loves. So it’s hard for her to come to terms with it all, but she tries and that’s the thing I took away from this. That even though she was uncomfortable and scared – she loves and supports James anyway. I was proud of her for this.

5. Be yourself and unapologetic about it. Etta has her insecurities, but she also knows who she is, and owns it (like her sexual activity and bisexuality). Her dancing plays a huge role in this, also with respect to her weight, and the way she comes to terms with it in the last few chapters is beautiful. I really wanted to be Etta’s best friend, to be honest, because she has such an effect on everyone around her, and I think that if I had a friend like that – I could learn from her. Because she’s flawed and amazing all at the same time. She’s insecure and proud. She’s such an enigmatic and real character, and it was great.

Now there are things I haven’t even mentioned here – like Etta and Rachel (her best friend) and how incredibly intense and confusing their relationship is – like Bianca being right in the throes of her eating disorder, and how everyone acts about that, and how it isn’t right but they’re trying so hard – like how there’s bullying, and it’s disgusting – like how Etta realises the things she’s done wrong (most with respect to her sister throughout the book) and ACKNOWLEDGES them – and how the person that Etta is in love with isn’t even a character, and you don’t know ANYTHING about her, and how that’s completely awesome.

There’s so much in this book, and so much of it is done so well. Not Otherwise Specified is a freaking great novel. It’s fabulous. Go read it.

© 2015, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

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Posted on: March 27, 2015 • By: Chiara

16 Responses to Review: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

  1. Beth W says:

    It sounds amazing (and accurate to some real-world issues, without making them a Lifetime Original Movie). Yay! Thanks so much- it’s on my radar now!

  2. Beth says:

    This sounds really interesting! It’s going on my birthday wishlist as we speak (type).
    Thank you for sharing!
    Beth x

  3. This sounds AMAZING. All of the perks & issues of the book you listed – WOW. Sounds like the author really knows her stuff. I’m particularly excited about a bisexual MC – you don’t get that a lot in YA, or a girl who is sexually active! It’s awesome that the MC owns that. I can’t wait to get my hands on this! Great review, Chiara! <3

    • Chiara says:

      IT IS, Rosie! :D

      It was amazing to have a bisexual, sexually active, POC MC in this book! So. Amazing.

      I really hope you can get a copy, because it’s definitely worth the read!

      Thanks, lovely <3

  4. Mawa Mahima says:

    Oh my days this book sounds so wonderful – I love how it tackles so many issues, without, as you said, being an issue book. Lots of the time books that talk about lots of problems tend to come off as preachy – which I’m glad this one wasn’t.
    I’m glad that there’s a complicated friendship (friendships rock!) in this story, and that Etta knows who she is and tries her best to embrace who she is despite or maybe because of all the troubles and obstacles she faces. I’m glad that, for once, the “religious” character in this LGBT story isn’t seen as cruel or unsympathetic – I like how Bianca made an effort to support her brother.
    This book just sounds so good! Will keep my eyes open for this one!

    • Chiara says:

      It is really wonderful, Mahima! This book was the opposite of preachy, and I’m almost certain that’s the aspect I loved best (which is hard to say because I loved a lot about this book).

      I was glad for the lack of religious hate, too! Seeing Bianca struggling but accepting her brother seemed very real to life.

      I hope you can grab a copy – it is worth the read :D

  5. Sydney says:

    Okay I REALLY want to get my hands on this book. There needs to be more with bisexual characters because you are not always heterostraight or homogay. SOMETIMES YOU LIKE BOTH. SOMETIMES IT’S ALL GREAT. YOU LIKE CAKE AND PIE. THAT’S ALL RIGHT. (Somewhere in there it became a Dean-related discussion. I’m not sorry.)

    Anyway, I also agree it’s fucking AWESOME that she owns her sexuality and is sexually active. The one big thing I despise about YA is that male characters are allowed to openly discuss sex and wanting it, but female characters are supposed to “treasure their virginity” and “save themselves.” Let’s open a damn discussion about how ABSOLUTELY SEXIST this is.

    First: the idea that men TAKE woman’s virginity is really disgusting and annoying. Like, a female character — and woman in general — is allowed to own her fucking body and she is not ~your special flower~ She is literally allowed to do whatever she wants and if sex is what she likes to do COOL. Let her do it. LET YOUR CHARACTER DO IT, and when someone calls her a slut she gives them the middle finger because she. Owns. It.

    Second: Implementing characters into your story that are sexually active but are ASHAMED of this — particularly female characters — will only further make girls feel like they can’t own their sexuality and just do what makes them happy. They’ll be reminded EVEN IN THEIR CHOSEN MEDIA that they are meant to be dainty and quiet and should not ever be forward with a man (or woman if you’re also into that).

    /end rant I just think a lot of authors are like “I’m progressive look at this gay character I wrote” and forget that there are OTHER sexualities out there, and that there are also other ways to explore sexuality. Being progressive and equal and not-sexist doesn’t mean you write about a white gay male — it means you write about bisexuality in all colors and genders, and you write about sexually active characters.

    But that would also mean teaching teens that they are in fact allowed to have sex (since most of them are already doing it anyway), and God for fucking bid the school system allows books like that to be readily available.

    This is like the longest comment ever and is like .01% related to this book but this book sounds awesome and I’m adding it to my TBR and thank you for letting me rant to you.

    • Chiara says:

      This is pretty much my favourite comment in the history of ever because I agree 100% with every word you said AND PREACH IT, TWIN. The fact that we’re supposed to be these totally nonsexual beings is completely fucked since girls *gasp* can like sex as well as guys. OH THE HORROR. And the bi-erasure in YA is really terrible, and I wish it was explored more because TBH I’ve known more bi people in my life than gay so there you go. And yet they’re still so absent in books, like it’s impossible to be attracted to both males and females. Let’s not even GET INTO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM OKAY

      Just yes to everything. <3

  6. Romi says:

    Well I’m going to read this, that’s for sure. Instant tbr add, and what a beautiful review you wrote! Eighty stars for it, and it sounds like another eighty for this book. YAYS all round!
    I think I’m really going to be able to resonate with this story… I mean, I’ve been effected by insecurity with my eating and at the time that it was really, painfully difficult I was a dancer, too, and while I’m a little frightened about reading books where a character is dealing with an eating disorder or anything relating to that, because I feel it fully and feel like I’m going backwards and it’s totally not worth it, I still want to read this and see how it hits me, how it makes me feel about what I went through.
    I’m really glad this touches on the subject of being bisexual- it seems to be a trend at the moment to label anyone who is bisexual as either lesbian or gay, and really it’s incorrect and frustrating. In the media, a celebrity comes out and even if they say they’re bisexual, they’re labelled gay or lesbian depending on their gender, and it is SO FRUSTRATING. Ah. Angry sighs from me in regards to that. Hopefully this is a book that I feel discuses the subject in a really good way.

    Brilliant review, Chiara! Xx

    • Chiara says:

      Yay! I am so glad that you added this to your TBR, Romi, because it is SUCH a good book- seriously.

      I can understand wanting to keep away from books that resonate really deeply with personal experiences, but this isn’t a drag-you-down book, nor a -everything-is-perfect book. So I hope that it lives up to your expectations <3

      This book definitely touches on being bisexual, and even the labelling that you mentioned. The main character, Etta, talks about being assumed o be either gay for straight - depending on who she is with at the time. It's actually heartbreaking.

      Thank you so much, lovely!! <3

  7. Benish says:

    I’ve heard mainly good reviews about this book.. I do like that it tackles many subjects, it sounds like a different kind of story, so I shall be adding this to my TBR list – thank you for the beautiful review!

  8. I really sembró read this one. I’ve been waiting for it to be available in my library… It just sounds so good without even trying. Awesome review, Chiara!

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