‘The Opposite of Everyone’ Readalong – Part Three
We’ve reached the end of our readalong for Joshilyn Jackson’s The Opposite of Everyone with part three (chapters 9-13). If you still haven’t finished, just keep our notes handy for when you do! (Get the notes for part one here and part two here.) And for more insight into The Opposite of Everyone, including who should play Julian in the movie version, skip on over to Traveling With T.
It’s also time for our Twitter chat — and giveaway — with Joshilyn today from 1-2 p.m. CST (2-3 p.m. EST & 11 a.m.-noon PST), so join in using the hashtag #southernlit. (You can find quotes and discussion from the book under the hashtag #jjreadalong.) We’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum for those of you who haven’t finished the book, so don’t let that stop you from participating.
Foster care/lost children
I have to say that I love the way Joshilyn ended this book and her progression leading up to the climax in Chapter 13. Part three is action-packed, with young Paula reuniting with her mother, adult Paula getting held up at gunpoint, Birdwine finally winning Paula over, Candace showing her true colors, Shar returning and, finally, the rescue of Hana.
After describing Paula’s stint in foster care and Kai’s in prison, Joshilyn tells us what happened when Kai got out — and it isn’t pretty. As much as Paula hoped and dreamed for the perfect reunion with her mother and return to their life the way it was before she called 911, Candace ruins it.
Kai doesn’t handle the news that Paula made the 911 call well at all. In fact, she pretty much ignores it. This breaks my heart once again and makes me dislike Kai even more. Paula didn’t know that she’d cost Kai Julian in prison, and I think she deserves some forgiveness here, but Kai gives her none. Paula calls her mother her “best, first love,” but after Candace reveals the truth, Kai can barely stand to look at her daughter.
“I don’t remember my mother ever looking straight at me again,” Paula says … “But in my memory, her eyes wore out the air around me, year after relentless year.” Kai stopped being a mother to Paula and so Paula acted out in every way she could think of, only to fail to regain Kai’s attention. When Paula moves with William to Indiana, it’s the last time she sees her mother.
Dear and Good and Worthy
In Chapter 11, Paula says, “I’d wanted Kai — or anyone, anyone who knew the worst in me — to say that I was still dear, and good, and worthy.” Kai never tells her what she wants to hear and so Paula decides to give this gift to Birdwine by telling him she knows he’s doing the best he can. In turn, when Paula asks Birdwine why he loves her, he says, “Because everyone on this shithole planet says a lot of pretty words to make themselves look good while they do awful things. You’re the opposite.”
Birdwine is telling Paula that he loves her, iron blood, war paint and all. Birdwine’s most swoonworthy quote in the book is his telling Paula he’s there to rescue her, but in a way Birdwine and Paula rescue each other. They do it by accepting each other’s faults and rough places unconditionally.
We’ve talked about making a family in other parts of the book and could all take a lesson from Julian on putting your money where your mouth is, but unconditional love is a big part of it. That’s something Kai tragically couldn’t offer Paula.
With the help of Shar from foster care, who now works in the system herself, Paula finds Hana, and Julian’s fantasy of one big happy family comes true. Kai gives Paula a parting gift in her little sister. All these years, Kai has been telling Hana stories about “Kali,” Paula’s given name, and drawing pictures of her, so that when Hana sees Paula, she knows her right away.
I know I shed a few tears at the ending of this book. Joshilyn does a wonderful job of building up the suspense of finding Hana and letting her characters grow at their own pace. Paula softens her tough exterior and becomes a little more like Julian; Birdwine accepts the reality of not meeting his son; and Hana finds a permanent home.
Joshilyn’s theme of telling stories runs throughout this novel and offers a lesson on fact vs. fiction. Kai lives in a fictional world filled with folk tales that makes it hard for her to face reality, while the reality of Paula’s life is something no kid should have to experience. Paula says that Kai’s parole ties them to their “true history.” In the end, it’s Paula that’s become the storyteller, telling Hana and Julian’s futures with plenty of sweetness and hope.
Questions to Consider:
Is Kai justified in shutting Paula out after Candace tells her she called 911, or is it her job as a mother to love Paula unconditionally?
Should Paula have been the bigger person and reached out to Kai after all these years?
Is Birdwine a good person or do his alcoholism and abandonment of his son make him someone not fit to help raise Hana?
Does Kai redeem herself in the end by preparing Hana to meet Paula?
What is your “true history” and how has it shaped who you are?
“The truth was not a story that my mother told.” – Paula, Chapter 9
“I’d come here to wipe away my history with Birdwine, but in the moment of this simple contact, I fully understood that my foot was poised on something live. All I had to do was press down, stamp, and I would kill it.” – Paula, Chapter 10
“Love could be broken, in spite of what poetry and chick flicks said.” – Paula, Chapter 10
“I am floored at how much ugliness can be alive inside simple pragmatism.” – Paula, Chapter 12
“I feel wetness, her tears and snot leaking through the knit to coat my skin, and it is as if I am holding a piece of me. It is me, and yet it is external, and itself.” – Paula, Chapter 13
We get a lot more details about William Ashe in part three. He named his baby “Paul” after Paula, and she basically ran away with him to Indiana to get away from Kai. There’s obviously a lot more to Paula and William’s history than we know, so Joshilyn better be ready to dish during our chat.