Author: Brent Hartinger
Publisher: BK Books
Length: 165 Pages
Category: New Adult
At a Glance: I was inspired by Otto, and I liked where he ended up when this first chapter of his adult journey wrapped. I’ll definitely tune in to see where the author takes him next.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: “Road trip!”
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 might still have romantic feelings for his best friend.
Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?
Review: Otto Digmore was brought to life by Brent Hartinger back in 2005, in the second of his Russel Middlebrook books—the series that began with the acclaimed novel, Geography Club. In The Otto Digmore Difference, Otto is back, now twenty-six and trying to figure out his life, his career, and his relationship with his best friend, Russel Middlebrook.
As the blurb tells us, Otto is a burn survivor and has scars covering half of his face and part of his body. He has spent his entire life trying not to let his scars define him and, as an actor, has struggled against taking parts that are offered based solely on his disability rather than his talent. He has gotten some good buzz and celebrity status from his current supporting role on a television series, but unfortunately, the gig turns out to be short lived. He gets a little sliver of hope while he’s at his agent’s office, however, when he learns about an amazing sounding part in an upcoming film project, for which he is potentially perfect.
I loved Otto and the idea of the premise very much. I love that he’s garnering some positive attention as an actor, and the fact that he’s so willing to fight for this role that he feels is the perfect fit for him. I’m one million percent down with the messages in the book…messages of fighting for your dreams, of friendship, of embracing what makes you different… It was the actual telling of the story I had some mixed feelings about. Fundamentally, the writing is very good. Hartinger obviously knows his craft. But, at times the story felt melodramatic and even repetitive in places. The tone also kept throwing me off a bit; though The Otto Digmore Difference is an NA book, it definitely reads as a YA book throughout much of it.
Otto’s desire to land this movie role turns into a road trip, on which Russel accompanies him. As a screenwriter, Russel gets very excited about all the possible ‘road trip movie clichés’ that might befall them—and, one after the other, they do. Again, the melodrama of several of the situations threw me off a fair amount, particularly in the first half of the story, but in the last thirty percent or so it started to turn around and things really tied together nicely at the end.
Like I said, I loved Otto a lot and Russel was lots of fun. But a thought that kept coming back to me was the fact that these characters were introduced over ten years ago, and I couldn’t help but wonder if their personalities and the way they are written is much the same, even though they have aged in years. Having not read the Russel Middlebrook books, I obviously can’t say for sure, but I did feel the characters perhaps lacked a certain maturity. And, though this book did hold up well as a standalone, I bet that readers coming in with a previous fondness for Russel and Otto will love the book even more.
I was inspired by Otto, and I liked where he ended up when this first chapter of his adult journey wrapped. I’ll definitely tune in to see where the author takes him next.
You can buy The Otto Digmore Difference here: