You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour, 256 pp, RL: TEEN
Originally reviewed on 6/27/16
David Levithan is one of my top five favorite writers of YA fiction. His a gifted writer when it comes to getting the intricacies and delicacies of relationships - be they platonic or romantic - on the page, and his work always reminds me that making and maintaining connections is possibly the most important work we can do. Besides being an editor at Scholastic, Levithan is the author/co-author of twenty books! His newest, You Know Me Well, written with Nina LaCour, is the dual narrative of Mark and Kate, junior and senior at the same high school who, before bumping into each other at a bar in the Castro district on the first night of Pride Week, had never spoken to each other.
Mark and Kate are at a crossroads with their longtime best friends and feeling pushed to change. Mark, varsity baseball playing, straight A student is good looking enough to get asked if he is a model and secretly in love with Ryan. Ryan, who is not out, takes a big step forward, just not with Mark. Kate, a painter headed to UCLA who is having a crisis of confidence, and Lehna have been best friends since second grade. They came out to their parents, together, when they were fourteen, but lately it seems like Lehna is a different person. Lehna's cousin, Violet, has been traveling the world with her photo journalist mother, and is the girl of Kate's dreams. When she finally gets the chance to meet Violet, Lehna almost sabotages the moment and Kate sabotages herself. That's when Kate and Mark, a little heartbroken, scared and confused, find a new friendship with each other - and find a way to keep the old friendships that seem to be falling apart.
Mark and Kate both go through emotionally painful confrontations with Ryan and Lehna, Mark's being especially raw. It is moving to watch these new friends as they support each other through challenges and encourage each other to say what they are feeling. Violet acts as both the glue and catalyst that keep Mark and Kate moving forward in You Know Me Well. But it's not all strum und drang for Mark and Kate. A David Levithan novel usually includes some kind of late night adventure and chasing a mysterious person (or band) and a Nina LaCour novel usually includes some sort of artistic, creative expression. You Know Me Well has all of this, from a party in a mansion on Russian Hill where a photographer and his friends turn the two into Instagram stars to a poetry slam to an art gallery opening and a charity auction, all with the festivities of Pride Week in San Francisco as a backdrop.
Reviews have called You Know Me Well a fairy tale story filled with "it gets better optimism," noting the impossibility of Mark and Kate really becoming friends and the high capacity of "emotional switchbacks" packed into one week. To me, You Know Me Well is a work of art. It takes some of the hard truths and lessons of being alive, being human and becoming an adult, and presents them in a way that, while it may not be entirely realistic, lets me look into other people's lives, empathize and learn. As an adult, I find it more hopeful and uplifting to read YA fiction where the characters are just beginning to make and learn from their relationship mistakes.
Books by Nina LaCour</a>
My reviews of a few of the many books by David Levithan
And coming this October!
Source: Purchased Audio Book