“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.
This YA novel about connection and identity has a sincerity to it that is so loud and clear that it threatens to overshadow the story itself. The intentions are great, but I felt as though the plot itself was a bit flimsy.
The characters in You Know Me Well are all searching for their own truths, each on the way to becoming a more authentic version of themselves. The storyline takes place during Pride Week in San Francisco. Mark has been out for years, and is secretly in love with his best friend, while Kate finally has a chance to meet the girl she’s dreamed about from a distance. And after years of going to school together but never actually interacting, Mark and Kate connect and form an instant and deep friendship, finding in each other a kindred spirit, someone with whom they can be honest and reveal their inner worries, fears, hopes, and insecurities.
The action takes place over the course of an eventful week, in which friendships are made and broken and love is both found and lost. The condensed timeline keeps the story moving along, but I had some little doubts in my mind about the suddenness of Kate and Mark’s friendship and the complete trust that they establish in seemingly no time at all.
You Know Me Well is written in alternating chapters, as the authors take turns presenting Kate’s and Mark’s points of view. It’s an effective technique, as we get to know the two characters both as they see themselves and as they see each other. Readers of David Levithan’s earlier works will be familiar with this approach, which he’s used with other co-writers in books such as Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, among others.
David Levithan is an amazing writer, and once again we see his beautiful language at play in conveying the inner landscape of young adults on the verge of becoming who they’re meant to be. There’s a nice little homage to his recent novel Two Boys Kissing (review), which is one of the loveliest young adult books I’ve ever read.
You Know Me Well has a lot going for it, and it’s a quick and touching read, but ultimately I felt as though the messaging about positive identity and acceptance was more overt and heavy-handed than it needed to be. Then again, I’m an adult reading the book, and not truly the target audience. I imagine that reading You Know Me Well could be a profoundly important experience for a teen, gay or straight or anywhere along the rainbow, who’s trying to establish a strong self and figure out their place in the world.
Title: You Know Me Well
Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: June 7, 2016
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley