You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

You Know Me WellYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Published by St. Martin’s Press on June 7, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

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3 Stars, Completed June 1, 2016

– SPOILER free –

Have you ever met a person and instantly just clicked? It’s funny how life works. People may have cross paths before but it’s not until a specific encounter before their lives may entwine. You Know Me Well embodies this puzzling but amazing entity called friendship so excellently.

The story is about two openly gay high schoolers that coincidently meet at a bar the first night of Pride week. They’ve had Calculus together for the last year, but neither of them have ever spoken to the other. But that fateful night, they, both troubled and wary of love, find an instant connection and solace in each other. Told in an alternating perspective by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well refreshingly explores the a type of love that is often overlooked in YA literature: platonic love.

“I’ve spent the whole day, the whole school year, really, realizing that I might not actually like my friends all that much. Which is why I’m at a bar by myself on a night when everyone else is with other people. I wasn’t supposed to be here, but here I am, and then here you are, and it’s like a flashing arrow is pointing me to you, telling me that you are someone I should know.”

Friendships are sometimes spontaneous. They can form in the most unexpected times. And they can end in painful but unlikely ways. And more often than not, they’re complicated. Mark and Kate’s relationship was true and not at all unconvincing, in my opinion. When they decide to be friends it’s not like they’re complete strangers. They do know of each other through school. Also, they don’t become best buds overnight. They just form this special bond full of support and understanding when their best friends aren’t there for them.

And even more important was that even though the two developed a friendship didn’t mean that their relationships with their best friends become nonexistent.

Lehna (Kate’s best friend) is the typical character readers are going to hate, but strangely I wasn’t particularly bothered by her. Her behavior are certainly inexcusable but yet still understandable. And I loved the “twins” dynamic she and Kate have. They’re best friends to the point that they’re almost sisters, which isn’t unheard of. And their friendship is falling apart as they age and distance themselves, which is also common in reality.

Ryan (Mark’s best friend), too, is a character that is cruel in a deliberate but insecure manner. I especially liked his and Mark’s relationship just because it’s also plausible and omnipresent in real life. And with Ryan, readers still indirectly experience a character that struggles with being comfortable in his own skin and accepting his sexuality publicly.

But I loved that essentially this was not a coming out novel like many other YA LGBTQ+ stories. Both leads were openly comfortable with their sexualities. The fact that they were insecure in many aspects but not in that department made it easier for readers to focus on the dynamics between the cast.

“I’m told that if you’re going to fall in love with someone, it’s always best to fall in love with someone who’s going to love you back.” …
“The heart is a treacherous beast.”
“But it means well.”

Unrequited love hurts. And I think it hurts more when it’s with your best friend. Mark’s romance was a realistic portrayal of going through such a relationship. I felt like there were spurts of too much teenage melodrama for my liking, but overall I found his arc of the story thorough and fleshed out.

Though I liked the M/M arc, I couldn’t say the same for its F/F counterpart. In fact, You Know Me Well‘s biggest drawback for me was that I wasn’t invested in Kate’s romance with Violet at all. I didn’t ship Mark and Ryan because I knew their relationship would have difficulty working out, but Kate and Violet could work. But everything about their encounters was so lackluster. I was indifferent towards Violet as an individual, but I didn’t find her a bad character. However, she was just so bland. I couldn’t fathom how Kate could have fallen for Violet through mere letters. And I often felt myself unforgiving towards Kate’s continual mistake of standing up the other girl. It got repetitive after the second? Third time? And a part of me also wonders if it’s because it’s a F/F romance that I feel this disconnected (seeing I didn’t like my last one either). I am heterosexual, but then again I’m not homophobic either. I don’t know, I’m not writing that statement off just yet. I’ll definitely continue to try more F/F romances in the future to test this theory.

Anyway, I believe that the friendships in You Know Me Well were crafted intricately, but the romances (especially the F/F) were considerably weak in comparison.

I also was aware that the big ideas were realistic, but the smaller details just… weren’t. There were several times in which our teenage cast was supposed to get in trouble for their actions, but, strangely, they got off the hook too easily. The friendships were well done. The emotions were there. But then small details wouldn’t add up and made some things feel more far-fetched.

However, I was still thoroughly entertained by You Know Me Well in many ways. It was so refreshing with the values it decided to focus. A young adult contemporary doesn’t always have to be about romance. And this wasn’t only a romance about two homosexual pairings. Instead, we get more than that (and, thankfully so, since I found the romance to be weaker anyway). It’s a believable story about different types of friendships. And because the entire storyline takes place within a week made it incredibly fast paced and fun. So, perhaps, You Know Me Well isn’t overwhelmingly impressive among other LBGTQ+ titles but it is a quirky and refreshing story that proved to be enjoyable.


Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review You Know Me Well. Receiving this early copy did not affect my reading experience or review in any way.

Summer’s Playlist:
I Don’t Wanna Dance Count On Me | Down For You | Cavalier | Closer (Time Stops Breathing)
*the bold/underlined are must listens!

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31 thoughts on “You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

  1. Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks says:

    OMG, Cavalier is one of my favorite songs at the moment. His voice is so haunting and beautiful at the same time. T_T

    I may be interested in this just because I’ve been craving well-done platonic relationships in YA recently, but it’s a shame that the romance didn’t draw you in. I usually find it difficult to keep up with a book if I’m not invested in the romance at all. Great review, Summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      OMG. No way, I’ve (obviously) been loving this song as well. I totally agree, so much emotion (in a not trying too hard way)! T.T

      Thanks, Aimal! Precisely, I may have skimmed parts with the F/F romance because it was so dry. :/

      Like

  2. Eve @ Twist in the Taile says:

    I’d been a bit on the fence for this, but after reading this I’ll probably try and request it in the library or something for a nice summer road. I’d always love for there to be more books with boy-girl and LGBTQ+ friendships. (Because sometimes people are just very good friends and not in love.) If you ever wanted to try a YA with F/F then I’d maybe suggest Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley…? I really enjoyed that, and it deals with a lot of different issues too. nods

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      You Know Me Well makes a perfect library read! There were some things that I loved while others that didn’t wow me as I thought they would. However, yay for LGBT lit and friendship above all! Thanks so much for the recommendation, Eve! I’ve seen Robin Talley titles around the blogosphere before. I’ll certainly be trying Lies We Tell Ourselves in the future! ^.^

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Louise / geniereads says:

    This is one of my most anticipated books this June, and I’m really excited to read it soon. The friendship in this book sounds promising,and I think this would be a refreshing read. Sad to hear that you didn’t like to romance too much. This is seriously a great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Warisha Reads says:

    This book sounds like a fresh and relieving read in a genre that’s getting too crowded lately. As always, lots to learn from your amazing response to the book. Wonderful Review ❤

    Have a good day Summer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zoe says:

    There aren’t enough stories about friendship in YA, so it makes me so happy to hear that friendship plays such a big role in this book. It’s a shame that the romance isn’t quite as strong though. 😦 Definitely going to have to give this one a try. Thanks for sharing Summer and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Analee @ Book Snacks says:

    Sorry to hear about the parts that kind of let you down, but I’m glad to hear about the promotion of platonic love in this one! It’s nice to see a strong theme of friendship once in a while though it’s too bad the romance was a let down. Guess we can’t have it all, sometimes! 😄 Love the review, Summer! (I feel like I haven’t talked to you in forever omg.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Thank you, Analee! 🙂 (And aww, I know! We haven’t chatted in some time!) This one was certainly refreshing for the themes it decided to focus on. The romance wasn’t great but the other redeeming qualities were brilliantly done!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    “But I loved that essentially this was not a coming out novel like many other YA LGBTQ+ stories.”

    HALLELUJAH.

    But wow, it seems odd (not to mention disappointing) that the F/F romance is so lackluster. I wonder how much of that is intentional (prioritizing the M/M, and prioritizing the friendship over the romance), and how much is a result of the dual authorship? Is Levithan the stronger writer, and he didn’t really touch LaCour’s F/F contributions–so the F/F stuff was just naturally and unintentionally weaker?

    Anyway, excellent review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      To be honest, I haven’t delved much into LGBTQ+ literature, but they’ve all been coming out stories stories so far… So this one was certainly refreshing for that aspect. ^.^

      I believe the contribution between each author is evenly split since Mark and Kate’s POVs would switch off every other chapter. And I’m pretty sure (I remember reading somewhere) that Levithan took the M/M perspective and romance while LaCour the F/F one. I think we’ve talked about this before but I didn’t really like LaCour’s short story in the Summer Days and Summer Nights anthology for the same reasons as this standalone (the romance was just so meh). And I’ve read some other Levithan work in the past and really enjoyed it. I may be somewhat biased because of this, but in terms of romance I’ve had better experience with Levithan and think he’s a stronger YA romance author, in my opinion. However, I’m going to give Hold Still (which I know focuses on different types of themes) so I’m not going to give up on LaCour’s work yet! 😀

      Thank you, Liam! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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