Review: You Know Me Well

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  • Release Date: June 7th, 2016
  • Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan
  • Website: http://davidlevithan.com/ and http://ninalacour.com/home
  • ISBN: 9781250098641

Review:

At the end of the day, all you really need to know about this book is that it’s a fantastic collaboration between two of YA’s best and brightest, Nina LaCour and David Levithan. There is no question of the quality of the work with this one — these two are at the top of their game, and You Know Me Well brings the best of their styles together seamlessly.

The breezy novel clocks in at a little over 250 pages and cheerfully sprints after Kate, an artistic lesbian, and Mark, a gay boy from the baseball team, as their relationships and their lives start to fall apart around them. Oh, and it’s set during Pride Week in San Francisco, with all of the celebrations and other rainbow characters that implies. Doesn’t it sound awesome? Well, it is.

To give a bit more detail, this is a novel about uncertainty. Mark is in love with his sort-of boyfriend, sort-of best friend Ryan, but the two are drifting apart and Mark is desperate to figure out a way to bring the two of them back together. Kate is a talented artist with the biggest case of impostor syndrome I’ve seen in a YA book — something I’m sure lots of teens will relate to, even if they don’t yet have a name for the feeling — and she’s been nursing a crush on her best friend’s cousin to keep herself distracted from the start of her new life at UCLA.

These characters are a trainwreck. They’re dysfunctional. They hurt themselves and each other. They fall in and out of love. They sneak into elite San Francisco parties. They make mistakes that have real consequences. It’s all gloriously messy, just like real life, and I wish more YA books captured the chaos and the anxiety of early adulthood as well as LaCour and Levithan have.

Best of all, the ensemble cast is almost entirely queer. I think the kids’ parents may be the only straight characters in the book. Some people might think that’s somehow excessive or unrealistic, but for me, it’s incredibly real. Even before I came out (to myself or anyone else), I was hanging out with the queer kids at my college. We gravitate toward each other like light towards a black hole, except that the black hole is actually rainbow flags and hugs and acceptance. The message to queer kids is: don’t worry, there’s a place out there where you won’t be alone. We need that message badly.

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