The Otto Digmore Difference Book Review: A coming-to-terms story of sorts

he Otto Digmore Difference Book Review

What is this about: Road Trip! Otto is on a mission to get an audition with a famed director, and travels across the US to meet him. Accompanying him is Russel, his now married ex.

What else is this about: Love, family and friends. How appearances are everything, even when you wish they weren’t. 

Stars: 3.5/5

Blurb: “Road trip!” 

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 Harbinger first introduced the character of Otto Ditmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrooks. 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 Ditmore 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 story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends. 

You know you like a book when

You get so anxious about the ending, and the main character, you email a friend and ask her if the thing you assume is going to happen is going to happen when you really should have finished the book first.

Sorry Lauren!

That right there is a measure of the success of this book for me – I got so wrapped up in the story, in Otto and Russel, that I NEEDED to know what Otto was going to do because I didn’t want to not like Otto – because Otto is that guy, that likeable, wonderful guy with hidden depths you want to spend time finding out what they are.

Russel and Otto

As I understand it, Russel is in a previous series, though I am not sure if Otto appears in that series. When the book opens, Russel is married and Otto, I think he’s lonely. I think for all the glitz and glamour of his supporting part in Hammered, his TV series, he’s still alone.

Russel and Kevin are his friends, and good friends given Russel drives him across the country for the audition, but Otto when he describes his life on the series, seems like an outsider looking in. Perhaps because that’s not what he wants to do – he wants something more, something better and that’s what the part in The Tulip Vase is.

The blurb is a little bit deceptive in that while romance does play a part in this, it’s hardly the biggest part. Thankfully. This is about Otto coming to terms with himself.

Road Trip!

So, on a wild ride, Russel takes Otto across the country, spouting a fair few writing clichés along the way, i.e. the things road trips movies should have. It’s funny, like laugh out loud funny, but I didn’t quite understand why Russel and Otto had ever been together. It’s sort of like Otto was looking at Russel through the haze of memory in some bits. I found myself trying to figure them out, trying to figure out if I wanted Otto and Russel together by the end, Kevin be damned. I say that not to spoil you, but to show that despite the flaws, this is a wonderful relationship. There is another romance hovering in the background and that in my opinion I would LOVE to see more of. Just no love triangles please!

And it’s how Otto has to figure out what he wants from his life and more importantly, a career built in an industry that let’s face it, thrives on how good you look. No matter the talent, having a face filled with scars will to say the least hamper your progress in Hollywood.

Scar tissue

It’s interesting having a clearly talented actor in Hollywood, with a facial disfigurement. Otto wants to build his career, but can’t, not if his agent keeps sending him to Nightmare on Elm Street roles. He’s self-aware to know he can’t have everything, but he won’t give up either, because dammit, he is good. And he knows people can see that beyond the scars on his face. I wonder what the future holds for Otto in this series in Hollywood. I wonder if the author can give him the success he’s built the character to want and still have a strong, believable Otto.

Sexuality

Otto isn’t out in Hollywood, and his sexuality and his career aren’t anything but a small question in the book. I did think that the author was waiting for a different book to bring this out, but if he does, how would a gay actor, with facial scars far in a place obsessed with looks like Hollywood? Then I wondered, is that what this book is about really – Otto wanting to convince people he can be the romantic lead in a movie when all people see are his scars? Is it about people struggling against the perception others have of their skin colour, their sex or disability even though their talent is all there.

That’s been going around recently, hasn’t it?

I can get behind his sexuality being a minor point in this story, because I see a story about whether your race, colour of your skin, disability or sexuality is holding you back – and we like to pretend we live in a world where it doesn’t, but it does, matter —  you still have to strive to be true to yourself – whether you get the right guy or girl in the end for your HEA. Brent Hartinger has told a story with a lot of heart and empathy, and build a strong character that you will cheer for and rail with against every Nightmare on Elm Street role.

Otto Digmore is that guy, the one who deserves everything good in the world and you hope he’ll get it.

Have you read the Russel Milbrook series? What do you think of Otto?

7 Comments

  • Sounds like I would like this book! I like stories about people struggling against the perception others and trying to overcomes the labels that have been imposed on them

    • Verushka says:

      It’s wonderfully done, and left me totally wondering where the author is going to take Otto. I want him to have his happy ending and an Oscar and so much more… but I don’t know that the story would work if he did. SO yeah. this is a wonderful story!

  • haha it’s quite alright! I love that you were invested enough to need to know! Thanks for your awesome review. Otto is in a previous Russel book – well, a couple of them, but they dated in high school (that’s in one of the YA Russel books) and Otto is at the wedding in Russel’s last book (that’s more NA – and Otto picks up where that one ended). 🙂

    -Lauren

    • Verushka says:

      I was so nervous! I didn’t want Otto & Russel, but I also knew I could stand it if it made Otto happy. SO was definitely torn lol Which is when I emailed — i had just got to work, and knew I wouldn’t get a chance to read again until the end of the day, which prompted my email. I didn’t even consider time differences or anything like that, I just had to know!

  • Lol – I’ve don’t that before, emailed a friend because I was anxious about a certain part of a book. Sounds like a good book with a positive message.

    • Verushka says:

      It TOTALLY got to me! And I was right at the end and I HAD to sit down and you know, work, lol and I couldn’t wait one little bit, spoilers be damned lol

  • This sounds like a sweet book, and that’s awesome that it was so gripping for you! Although I can’t say I’ve ever emailed anyone to ask what would happen lol.

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