Wow, a hidden gem.
Nothing Like You starts with a very compelling premise. Holly is starting her senior year. During the summer she had a fling with Paul Bennett, only the most popular guy in school. She's lost her virginity to him in the back of his car and assumes that it was a one time thing for both of them. Until Paul starts coming around again at the start of school. And Holly, like everyone else, knows that perfect Saskia is his long-term girlfriend.
Like for an example, I knew that Paul was probably going to end up being a jerk. Here he is accepting a strange girl's virginity in his car, cheating on his girlfriend, and coming back for more. But I was tricked by his character at the start; for a second--actually for quite a few pages--I thought Paul might be okay. Maybe he really did like Holly and is a good guy caught in a bad situation. But no. No no. Lauren was just able to write a character who could be a jerk and at the same time, even though you're seeing everything happening in slow motion, make you love him in the way Holly does. And it's funny, Holly isn't really being naive in the story. She's numb and has many and various bottled-up feelings about the death of her mother, but Paul makes her forget those things and feel something good--even for a little while. Her major problem begins when Saskia seeks out a friendship. And she turns out to be a way sweeter person than Holly imagined.
I also liked Nils, Holly's best friend. They are tomboy buddies, friends since they were ten or so. Nils has a problem with dating girls back to back and dumping them unglamorously. In this scene, he and Holly are drunk and talking about his relationships:
"Okay, so wait, so you go, 'I'm just not ready to be in a committed relationship,' and she was like, what? She said what, exactly??" I was cracking up. Hysterical. Not that Nils and Nora's breakup was even remotely funny. "And then she was, like, sad, Holly. She was sad! Stop laughing! It sucked. I don't like hurting people. Especially not her, she's sweet." He stuffed a handful of chocolate into his mouth. I swallowed and continued. "No, but seriously, you're right. It is sad. It's really sad." I tried twisting my lips into a frown. "What're you doing to your face right now?" "I'm frowning." Nils reached out and touched my mouth. "You're not frowning, Hols, you're, like, smiling but the sides of your lips are turned down."
Another strength, just getting back to the character of Paul Bennett, is how well he was written. Seriously, if his character was too transparent the story would have fallen through. Lauren really knew this character, his MO, and even had me a little bit tricked, just as he had with Holly. And still, Paul came across not so much conscious of his actions, but really just acting out his true nature. He gave me chills.