Author: Brent Hartinger
Publisher: BK Books
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 Set featured imagestory, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.
First introduced in the Russel Middlebrook books in 2005, this story takes place when Otto is 26, his friend Russel has just gotten married and he has achieved a bit of celebrity status as a supporting character on a television show. His agent, or rather, her assistant, Greg, turn him on to a film role that he thinks would be perfect for him, scars and all, and so begins a journey for an audition to prove he can do more than play disfigured stereotypes. Despite having just gotten married, his friend Russel joins him on the audition adventure and as with any road trip movie, many things are tested and learned. The story is told from Otto’s point of view.
First, I must admit I have not read the Russel Middlebrook books, and while I don’t think you necessarily have to, Russel is such a great character, you likely will want to if you read this book first!
Otto provides a view of acting that does get spoken about, dealing with the good and bad sides of fame, but also gets glossed over, since the general consensus is that anyone who gets to act should be grateful they get to when there are so many who never do. Especially someone like Otto, who has burn scars on one half of his face and part of his body from an accident when he was 7. So, he is not only an actor, he’s different, and this story also touches on the side of celebrity where haters are part of your life – sometimes bringing in right to your door. And while he is trying to determine how to process all of this, he is dealt a professional blow as well as a completely different opportunity. With the encouragement of Greg, his agent’s assistant, and his friend Russel, he decides to pursue the opportunity, with Russel riding along and Greg calling along the way.
The road trip definitely has its share of adventures that do seem like scenes out of the movies we’ve seen, but I think the more important part of this journey, is the journey for Otto. Since becoming a professional actor, that is all he has done – he plays the role he’s paid for, he plays the role with the public he is expected to play, he plays a role with people he considers friends because he figures he should consider himself lucky. So, the road trip takes him away from the life role he plays and he has to think about what is important, what is real and if he does not get this part, what will he do and is he too different to really be successful at what he has dreamt of?
There is a side plot of him wondering if he still has romantic feelings for Russel, even though he swears he will not act on them since Russel is married and he overhears the conversation with the husband every night. That also becomes part of this ride for Otto, because he realizes he does not really have many close friends, let alone has he had many relationships. In part because, as far as Hollywood is concerned, he is straight since his agent has discouraged coming out.
There are some scary moments for their road trip, there are some great supporting characters that I hope will return in following stories of this series. If you are looking for a romance, this is not really what this book is, it’s a personal and professional journey for one young man, who, when it really starts to hit him that he may not get a part he wants and he’s not sure Hollywood will ever see him as more than a guy with scars, almost loses what is most important, but maybe also learns that while he may have roles to play for his career, it is just as important to have people you can be authentic with. The only spoiler I will give you is that there is no cheating in this book (in case you really like the Russel storyline, don’t worry!), but this is more a story than it is a romance. Well written, well-paced, with excellent characters so if you like character driven stories, I believe you will enjoy this as I know I look forward to see where Otto’s journey takes him and if the few mysteries left with this book are resolved!