I’ve read all of Joshilyn Jackson’s books (some multiple times), and Someone Else’s Love Story may be my favorite. I downloaded her e-book short story, My Own Miraculous, a month or so ago, and I’m glad I did because it is basically the prequel to SELS. Though it’s not necessary to read Miraculous to understand SELS, I don’t think I would have understood the characters or their motivations nearly as much without it.
Shandi is a 19-year-old single mother of 3-year-old Natty. She claims that she experienced a virgin birth after being drugged and not-quite-raped at a fraternity party – they never actually had sex because the guy, uh, finished, before that could happen. She is in denial about the whole thing and seems to believe that her body just imagined Natty up out of the blue. Natty turns out to be the love of Shandi’s life, and a 3-year-old genius. He speaks like a middle aged man, can read, and is light years beyond all of the other kids his age.
Walcott is Shandi’s best friend, and the only guy that she has actually been with (a favor after Natty came along and Shandi started dating men twice her age who expected real adult relationships). She and Walcott have known each other since they were babies, and he is Natty’s primary male role model.
Shandi’s parents are divorced and her dad has a condo in Atlanta that he’s not using. He offers it to her and Natty so that she can be closer to school and to doctors to get Natty tested for specialness. Walcott helps her pack up all her stuff and drives her out there. On the way, they stop for gas and snacks where Shandi and Natty get held up in a robbery, changing everyone’s lives forever. It is here that she meets William and falls in love with him immediately.
Although the characters’ names are sort of annoying (saying “Shandi” and “Natty” in my head while I was reading really irked me), the characters themselves are the kind that you fall in love with and root for. Shandi’s not perfect (she can be kind of an ass), but you still find yourself wanting her to succeed – she’s young and has had a rough life and is a really great mom. When she finally comes to terms with Natty’s true beginnings and starts searching out her attacker, you feel the anxiety and fear and anger that she feels. Jackson really has a way of bringing the reader into the story and feeling part of it rather than just an observer.
This book has pretty much everything going for it: love triangles, robbery, murder, virgin birth, adultery, adults with Autism, poetry, science, and nuns. It’s a win no matter what your interests are.