Book Review: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Posted April 17, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 6 Comments

Not Otherwise Specified

 by Hannah Moskowitz

Not Otherwise Specified

 Original Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Length: 304
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Obtained Via: Read for free as’s free read of the week.
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Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.


Not Otherwise Specified is such an engaging read! I knew the basics of this book before I started reading it, but I didn’t realize it was written in a very stream-of-conscious style. It’s not a style that works for everyone, and I think it might have annoyed me, except main character Etta is so fabulous. Not Otherwise Specified deals with some pretty tough stuff, but it doesn’t feel as heavy as you think it might, and it’s mostly due to Etta’s upbeat voice. She pirouettes off the page, seriously. Her character just sparkles, and not in a creepy vampire-way.

So, Not Otherwise Specified  is actually pretty short, but there’s a lot going on in it. Through the novel, Etta deals with being pushed out by her friends for dating a guy, despite telling her friends previously that she’s bisexual. They all take it as some sort of personal offense, which of course just creates this really vicious cycle. Etta’s also in recovery from an eating disorder and is preoccupied with trying out for a music theater high school in New York because all Etta wants to do is get out of Nebraska.

There’s also the fact she recently quit ballet because, as the summary says, she’s not “tiny and white” enough, and she feels in some ways it was harmful to her eating disorder. It sounds like a lot–and it is–but it doesn’t feel that way in the story at all, it feels just like a slice of Etta’s life. That’s what kind of book Not Otherwise Specified is. There’s a narrative, but it’s not as strong as it is in plot-driven books. It’s not exactly a character exploration, but it’s close. And I loved every minute of it.

2015 has been a really awesome year for new releases as I can see so far, and Not Otherwise Specified totally lived up to my expectations and then some. It’s kind of surprising, as wonderful as Etta is, but I often thought I loved the side characters just as much in this book. Everyone feels so real and a little bruised around the edges, as most people are. I also loved the way Etta and Bianca played against each other in terms of how they saw the world around them. Bianca is religious, and when her brother is forced out of the college, it’s hard for her, but it never delves into a black-and-white “sexuality and religion are always at odds!”, which I found incredibly refreshing.

I feel like I’m rambling all over the place in this review(and it’s a shorter one), so I’ll wrap it up, but I’ll just say that Not Otherwise Specified was amazing and pretty much flawless.


Really loved this one! I thought I’d like it, but I had no idea how much. It’s one of those books that contains a lot within a few pages and does it all so gracefully.  5/5 cupcakes.




5 Stars

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6 responses to “Book Review: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

  1. So I’m pretty sure that a few weeks ago this post went up and then you took it down because it showed up in my reader but I couldn’t comment…but the whole point of it is your review is the exact reason why I picked this book up and I’m so happy and thankful for your review because this book was exactly what I needed.

    And that was the longest sentence ever lol.

    • Stormy

      Really? I totally do not remember doing that. At all. I wonder if I mis-scheduled it at all? I’ve done that before, but I totally do not remember doing that with this post. Though I’m super glad my review made you pick this book up! Ah, that’s the best feeling(when the person picking up the book likes it of course. . . ) I’m really sad it hasn’t seemed to gain more traction in the YA community because it’s the kind of book I’ve seen a lot of people ask for, but it’s flown mostly under the radar so far from what I can tell.

    • Stormy

      It’s a hit-or-miss style for me. Most of the time it doesn’t work because I think most people’s internal thoughts are often, well, boring(I think if I were a book character, that line would firmly cement my place as an unlikable MC). Etta is so vibrant, though, so it worked here in my opinion.

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