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