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Review: The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

The Otto Digmore Difference 

Brent Hartinger

February 21, 2017



“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 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 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.



I was going to say that this isn’t exactly the kind of book that I would normally read, and in one way it definitely is not, but in another – when I really think about – this is exactly the kind of book I would normally read. The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger follows the story of Otto Digmore, an actor, who has recently had what he believes is his big break in Hollywood, starring in a supporting role on a popular sitcom. However when Otto’s show is cancelled, he finds that the only roles that have opened up to him are those trying to take advantage of his severely scarred face and cast him as a villain or a freak. That is until a role comes up that seems perfect. The novel follows the journey that Otto and his best friend Russel take across the country in the hopes of landing Otto’s dream role. All the typical road trip cliches happen — much to Russel’s delight — and a number of old feelings reappear — not that Russel can ever know about that.

“I know that most people don’t mean to be insensitive clods, but that doesn’t make it any easier when they are.”

I was provided with a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for a review, and it’s taken me wayyy longer than it should have to write this up. Particularly because it’s such a good book and I really should be recommending it to people! Hartinger’s writing is extremely engaging, and once I started reading the book, I couldn’t stop. At times, the romantic subplot seemed a little unnecessary or forced, but overall the story was incredibly good.

“The stars blaze and twinkle, and it’s hard not to feel like they’re all around you, like you’re lost inside it all, like you’re part of an explosion.

I start to laugh.”

Even though all the clichés were included, the story seemed so original. I accredit this almost entirely to the unique protagonist. Otto Digmore has a severely scarred face and body from a childhood incident, which makes it very difficult for him to get a job that isn’t ridiculing him. The book explores the Otto’s struggles as he examines the ways — both good and bad — that he is treated differently due to his scars.

“I am what I am. Like the truth is what it is. It’s not good or bad, it just is. The truth is neutral. We’re the ones who decide if something is good or bad.”

Otto is also gay, but this isn’t a novel about him coming to terms with his sexuality. It doesn’t focus on this. It’s just an everyday part of who he is, and I honestly believe that it’s so important to have more books where this is the case. The fact that the protagonist is gay but the story is not about him being gay is so refreshing, and it genuinely makes me so happy to see this kind of casual representation for the LGBT+ community.

“I’m not sure if I shouldn’t be a little insulted that he comes home and finds me, Russel’s ex, alone with his husband, and he doesn’t seem to have even the slightest hint of jealousy or suspicion.”

I loved this book a lot, especially the characters. From the main characters to those who were only there for a couple of pages, this book has the most diverse and genuinely likeable characters I’ve ever encountered. None of the characterisation feels forced, and many of them still have their flaws. This is honestly such an amazing read, and I would recommend it to everyone.

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