You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan | Rating: ★★★★★
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via Net Galley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Broadening the genre (if only for a small fraction of what is desired) beloved LGBTQ friendly writers Nina LaCour ("Everything Leads to You", "Hold Still") and David Levithan ("Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist", "Boy Meets Boy") have teamed up with each other for what's surely the most dynamic writing duo this year and lead us into a breezy young adult contemporary that is fast on track to becoming a new favorite for fans.
Seriously, guys. Their writing together? It's heavenly. Can you guys, like, I don't know, team up again about thirty-five more times? No?
Okay. Back on track!
If you've ever loved either author's work (solo or otherwise) You Know Me Well should be at the top of your list to purchase this summer. I don't even have to tell you this. Perhaps the best young adult book of 2016, You Know Me Well is the perfect novel to lay in the sun with and remains impossible to put down. New fans will be made with this gem of a novel and I'm confident in saying so.
Literature is meant to bring us together and allow us to embrace a story full of heart and this is one of those novels. There's something airy yet honest in its pages and fans are going to be connected to this one for a very, very long time.
LaCour and Levithan are both phenomenal at capturing the human spirit and exploring the odds and ends of coming of age. Together, they are unstoppable--indeed, the entire tone of You Know Me Well is a blast to read from start to finish and will leave its audience feeling connected with our two narrators, Mark and Kate.
You should note that the POV flips around between the two. Although it's not always easy to follow along in some forms of literature, the narration is split between both characters in a way that just flows excellent. The transition is seamless in this case--LaCour and Levithan have an uncanny ability to feel similar yet different in its prose, giving a unique voice to both characters without distraction for the reader from the switch.
It's impossible not to root for these two characters and their respective happiness. They're in the midst of growing up, changing, and there's an element of self discovery. Mark is a bit more shy when it comes to expressing his feelings towards his best friend (who is more than a friend but not his boyfriend) and Kate is caught wanting to run from the possibility of a future with a girl she thinks she loves, but has never met, Violet.
It was a surprise to feel how connected these two were in such a short time and I loved how easy their friendship came to be. Sometimes life leads you in an unexpected direction and one fateful night during Pride week, these two come together and it's something like fate. Regardless, these two were meant to be friends and understand each other really, really well.
I'm a sucker for a good friendship and that's what these two have. I loved every single interaction between the two and how they were there for each other instantly.
Which makes them all the more realistic. Beyond that, Kate and Mark have many traits that will resonate with readers who are searching for themselves. They are your everyday kids, they are your best friends or siblings or next door neighbor. It is so easy to fall into step with this unexpected duo.
Let's get down to business with their (romantic) relationships. I'm so excited to talk about Kate and Violet, first off, because they are the sweetest. I loved them just as much as Kate loved the idea of them, before they even interacted on page. There's sparks, there's a lot of an emotional connection there and just seeing this relationship portrayed the way it was meant a lot to me.
As a reader, there were times I wanted to reach into my book and shake Kate for bailing on their initial first meeting. I understood, though, why she was scared and saw a bit of myself in her. No, I take that back: I saw a lot of myself in her.
There's something scary about meeting someone after so long of holding onto this image of them and when it starts become real, sometimes it's in our very nature to want to bolt. I think that it's more important, however, to note that although she takes flight at one point she does come back. Her story is mostly about coming into her own and taking chances when needed--she comes to her senses and was just a treat to read.
That's what these two were: a chance worth taking.
Mark's relationship troubles are a bit different. You see, he and his best friend, Ryan, are at a point in their friendship when things could either make or break them. They have a bit of an arrangement going on where they are friends with benefits, and as we know that is a tricky road to navigate in general. Mark finds himself wanting more from Ryan--
Ryan? Well, Ryan's not at that place. And never will be.
Man, it's heartbreaking because Mark is an actual angel. I mean it--you're going to want to protect this little nugget. No, no... seriously! I wanted to wrap him up in a blanket and say it'll all work out in the end even if it's not the way you wanted it to. I think that his story is honest and that it wasn't sugarcoated; sometimes we fall for friends who can't catch us.
And sometimes that's okay.
Other great things to note about the novel is the exploration of Kate's art and the idea that one weekend--one week--can change everything you know. I liked the set up of what the characters want from their future and how they are going to approach that after high school. I liked the feeling of coming out of this with new friendships and old ones.
There was something so optimistic about this novel that it just made me feel all sorts of warm and fuzzies over it. It reminded me what it was like to be younger and questioning the future and whether or not I want to run from it, be someone else, or if I should take it head on.
Overall, You Know Me Well is a delightful tale of love, loss and friendships. And growing up.
It's RAD! Like Brad, without the B.