Published: 21 February 2017
Publisher: BK Books
Category: Contemporary/New Adult/MM Romance
Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.
Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.
It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.
There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.
Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?
Author Brent Hartinger first introduced the character of Otto Digmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrook. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for YA literature: a disabled gay character.
Now, more than a decade later, Otto is grown up and finally stepping into the spotlight on his own. The Otto Digmore Difference, the first book in a new stand-alone series featuring Otto, is about much more than the challenges of being “different.” It’s also about the unexpected nature of all of life’s journeys, and the heavy price that must be paid for Hollywood fame.
But more than anything, it’s a different kind of love story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.
Rating: 3 Stars
After seeing the movie Geography Club and being presented with the opportunity to review LGBT books by Lauren Becker, I was extremely pleased that the first book I get to read and review is The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger, the author of the book that the movie Geography Club was based on.
A road trip book can be all kinds of fun, especially when one of the characters loves those kinds of stories in movies, such as one of my favorites To Wong Fu Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. The incidents that cropped up for Otto and Russel were a bit stretchy, sometimes, but there was the air of adventure and thrill that you might expect in a film, something he delighted in (I’m sure!).
As for Otto, our main character, the author gave us, in him, an example of how horrible people can be online, safe from confronting the target of their taunts and threats. Otto, with disfiguring scars on one side of his face, doesn’t hear these so much in person anymore, but online people feel protected and he is still sent gifs of fried chickens, insinuations that he should commit suicide.
Otto doesn’t become a victim because of these, but he isn’t immune to these people either. It hurts, these dark parts of the Internet. Plus, having to have a public face for his fans all the time drains a person. His character, while having moments of what feel like utter deflation to me, is still strong because he remains in spite of these obstacles. He doesn’t let them destroy him.
I liked Otto’s remembrance of his home before his big break. The Hive was a collective for artists of all kinds with nary a night passing by quietly. It reminded me of the Cloud Club, a similar place where musician and author Amanda Palmer resided. That place always sounded like a haven for creativity and I imagine Otto found a lot of grace and solace there.
Ironically, it was after he got everything he wanted (t.v. role on Hammered, money, etc.) that he felt the most lost. While not the most beautiful of descriptions, the level of detail the Brent put into describing Otto’s life and his place of residence was high. It was easy to be put into the locations that Otto visited, starting with his apartment decorated by an interior designer.
I loved the callbacks to Brent’s Russel Middlebrook series, which I remember most fondly from The Geography Club. There were also plenty of nerdy references, such as Pokémon Go and Stranger Things.
Russell, apart from being the bright half of the duo, had a good point himself when he was talking about Hollywood movies. As a screenwriter, he had the unique perspective of seeing how, to quote him:
“…for every Star Wars movie that gets made, every new Marvel universe movie, that means there’s one less other studio movie made. There’s less of a chance of some future movie they might love.”
I know that I love the Wizarding World movies. I love Marvel movies and I even enjoy a lot of the remakes that Disney is making. However, it begs the question, where’s the originality? Russell’s point, what movies are we missing because we as the Hollywood consumer base are comfortable with the same old, same old, is an excellent one.
I admit that I did get a bit frustrated with how many stops there were in Otto’s quest to get this final audition. The summary made it sound as though he had one destination all along, but it was much more involved than that. There were some characters, too, that frustrated me, especially when the ending was resolved for this book (the first in the Otto Digmore series).
At the beginning of the novel we meet Fiona, Otto’s agent, who he describes as a great agent that isn’t a big one, but is still very dedicated to her clients. Her assistant, Greg, is the one that mentions the aforementioned audition to him for a movie called The Tulip Vase. Right from the get go with his involvement I could tell something was off because he never let Otto talk to Fiona about it, so I felt that something weird was going on. It turned out that my suspicion was correct because she had nothing to do either with the initial audition or Greg egging Otto on to meet the director and audition for him personally. That was very sneaky behavior and I would not have been able to trust him after an episode like that.
It was this series of actions that caused Fiona, once she found out, to drop Otto as a client because she didn’t feel he trusted her anymore. While Greg made excuses for why Fiona could never come to the phone, Otto never pushed too hard against these, so I think he’s at least a little responsible. Then, after Greg admits what he has done, he also confesses that he has feelings for Otto, wants to become a manager himself, and would like to manage/date Otto. Neither of these sounded like good ideas because a) he can’t be trusted (see the previous sneaky behavior and outright lying to Otto as evidence) and b) there was no sign of any sort of affection that might have led to them ending things where they did. After the deceitful behavior, I couldn’t understand how Otto would place himself in that position.
The biggest romantic feelings in the book were, I felt, between Otto and Russel, though it was one sided as Russel had been married 1-2 weeks during the majority of the book. It felt strange that I would get all these feelings when I knew that Russel was a faithfully married man and Otto knew that, though clearly he had to work out his feelings for his former boyfriend (Otto and Russel dated/were lovers in a previous Brent Hartinger novel).
END SPOILER ALERT
I’m not sure where this book will go from here. Perhaps there will be redemption for certain characters that I disliked at the close of the novel. Hopefully Otto will be able to find some of the success that he has the talent for. Time will tell, as will the next book in the Otto Digmore series.
About the Author
BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. He wrote the YA classic, Geography Club (2003), which was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He’s since published twelve more novels and had eight of his screenplays optioned by producers. He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. Visit him at brenthartinger.com.
I received a copy of this book from Lauren Becker and Brent Hartinger as part of the LGBT Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.