Dana reviews The Otto Digmore Difference (The Otto Digmore series Book 1) by Brent Hartinger. (Published by BK Books, February 1, 2017, 228 pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this: I listened to the two Russel Middlebrook series for my own pleasure, and I thought they were so great. When I saw this book was being released, I was so excited to get Otto’s story. When the author asked us if we wanted to review it, I jumped at the chance.
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?
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 for adults, 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.
I just finished reading The Otto Digmore Difference and had to sit down right away to write out my feelings while they were fresh. There is a warm feeling in my chest after finishing and a smile on my face.
I have to admit to having this book in my to be read pile for a while. Too long. I first listened to the audiobooks of the Russel Middlebrook series and the the Russel Middlebrook: the Futon Years series a little less than two years ago. We followed the character of Russel through relationships and career choices and one of the people who briefly came into his life was Otto Digmore. They dated for a little bit and then there was a time where they didn’t really interact until Russel moves to California where Otto happens to live at the time. I loved Otto because he seemed like a very genuine person. He wasn’t a huge part of Russel’s life, at least it didn’t seem like it at the time, but he was cool and I was very excited when I learned he was getting his own story.
A year and a half later, I finally read it and it was one of those cliche moments where you say, “Why did I wait so long?” and follow that up with a smack of your own hand to the forehead. It was so good! The author had mentioned it wasn’t a romance, the story isn’t like the previous series. Otto isn’t looking for love (it’s secondary to chasing down the perfect role for him) and he isn’t trying to find himself and what he wants to do with his life. He has figured that out for himself. (But p.s. there is some self discovery on Otto’s part.) I was told this was a story of friendship and even though friendships are important and can be critical in life, I think I felt uncertain about what the story would be about and I let it fall by the wayside.
That was until I kicked myself out of a reading slump and promised to check out these awesome books that slipped near the bottom of my to be read pile. I tell you, I should have trusted that I liked the author’s writing enough to have read it when I first got the copy. Because I found a funny story of two friends who have plenty of cliche moments of their own. They take a road trip to get Otto to an audition and come across psycho truck drivers who chase them down a highway, they meet a hitchhiker who teaches them something valuable, and their car breaks down in a small town where they help some local residents.
At the end of their journey things aren’t quite what they hoped for or what they seemed at the beginning. I found myself in tears, and then I found myself smiling uncontrollably and laughing. This book really is about friendship. Russel and Otto definitely seem a lot closer in a strictly platonic way. Otto did have some lingering feelings for Russel but I’m not sure if they were for Russel himself or for what Russel has in his relationship with his husband. There are moments of hurt feelings, and moments of triumph. And now I want more. I want to know what is in store for Otto in the future of this series. I want to know if Russel will be a supporting character as much as he was in this book. It was definitely different seeing him in this secondary role. For some reason he has this even cooler vibe because we don’t see a lot of faults or selfishness in Russel because we are seeing him from someone else’s viewpoint.
The author did give good backstory in this book so I think it’s reasonable to say you can read The Otto Digmore Difference without having read the previous series about Russel. I want to recommend the reading those books though because I think it will only help you love these characters more. It is definitely a recommended read and I would read anything by this author. And lesson learned, I won’t let it wait so long next time.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
BRENT HARTINGER is the author of many novels, including Geography Club (2003) and six companion books: The Order of the Poison Oak (2005); Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (2007); The Elephant of Surprise (2013); The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (2014); Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (2015); The Road to Amazing (2016); and The Otto Digmore Difference (2017).
His other books include The Last Chance Texaco (2004); Grand & Humble (2006); Project Sweet Life (2008); and Three Truths and a Lie (Simon & Schuster, 2016).
A feature film version of his first novel, Geography Club, was released in November 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, and Nikki Blonsky. A television series based on the movie is now in the works.
Also a screenwriter, eight of Brent’s screenplays have been optioned for film, and four are currently in various stages of development, including The Starfish Scream, a teen drama; and Decked, the animated “true” story behind a deck of playing cards.
In addition, Hartinger is the author of many award-winning plays, including a stage adaptation of Geography Club, which has received regional productions in Salt Lake City, Edmonton, and many other places.
Mr. Hartinger’s many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award; a GLAAD Media Award; an Edgar Award nomination; the Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award; and a Book Sense Pick (four times). Screenwriting awards include the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, a Writers Network Fellowship, and first place in the StoryPros, Fresh Voices, Acclaim, and L.A. Comedy Festival screenwriting contests.
Hartinger is the co-host of the Media Carnivores podcast, a sometime-member of the faculty at Vermont College in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and the co-founder of the entertainment website AfterElton.com, which was sold to MTV/Viacom in 2006. In 1990, he co-founded one of the country’s first gay youth support groups, in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. He also founded and currently runs the Real Story Safe Sex Project.
He lives in Seattle with his husband, writer Michael Jensen.