Saturday, June 18, 2016

You Know Me Well » Book Review


I want to smash something.

I guess it's a positive that Levithan made me so attached, so allegiant, to his character, Mark, that I want to throttle the fictional character who hurt him.  I haven't felt this worked-up over a book since The Handmaid's Tale...

Okay. The suffering that Mark goes through in You Know Me Well is not comparable to the rape-y horror of Atwood's dystopian novel. Comparatively, it's mild.  But goddamn if I don't feel utterly enraged, if I don't feel like injustice has been done. Why, oh why, [spoiler]Ryan[/spoiler]? Why, oh why?

How This Whole Thing Started

You Know Me Well starts at the beginning of Pride Week in San Francisco.  Two teenagers, Mark and Katie, both gay, both attending the same high school, run into each other at a LBGTQ club.  Mark is there with his best friend, Ryan, who is also gay.  Mark happens to be in love with Ryan — small fact.  Mark and Ryan have messed around, but always in secret, because Ryan is closeted.  Katie spots Mark after he wins a scantily-clad bar dancing competition, much to Mark's embarrassment. Katie, impulsively, asks Mark to be her friend.  He agrees, bemused, and the two take off together when Ryan wants to stay behind to flirt heavily with another guy. Ugh.

Katie has her own problems.  She's been in love with her best friend's cousin, Violet, from afar for a long time.  That night, Katie and Violet are supposed to meet at a party through arrangement, but Katie takes off before the meeting due to nerves. After running away and ending up at the same bar as Mark,  Katie wanders off with him to find adventure in the city, which sets off a chain of events that will leave them changed.

I'm Still Mad

Just to remind you, I'm furious.

LaCour and Levithan — Who Was the Stronger Writer

As you might have seen, You Know Me Well was written by two (gay!) authors — Nina LaCour and David Levithan.  In my opinion, Levithan's writing blew LaCour's out of the water.  I trudged through LaCour's chapters but ate up Levithan's greedily.  I wish the entire book had been written by him. (Yes, even despite the fact that he emotionally demolished me with this book.)

In comparison to Mark, Katie's character was fairly watery. She wasn't as vivid or full of life as Levithan's character creations.  Moreover, I didn't like Katie's strange combination of impulsive forthrightness and cringing hesitancy.  Call me a critic, but those are some contradictory qualities right there.

Overall, Levithan was was electric. LaCour was only so-so.

 So Do I Recommend This Book Or What?

I do! It's a short read and Levithan wrote a powerful half of a story. LaCour isn't bad enough to drag the story down to unreadable levels, either.

As for my rage... siiiigh. I'm still remarkably upset about [spoiler]Mark's lack of a fairytale ending[/spoiler]. Maybe some reader's would be less upset than me, but the situation struck me hard.

Anyways, this book would have been a  4.5 read if not for LaCour's just-okay writing. I give the book 3.5 and recommend.

[rating stars="three-half-stars"]


  1. This is the first time I've sat down to read a comprehensive review of this book. I love the setting and the cover and the fact that it focuses on diversity. However I've only read the authors' works in short story anthologies, so I'm not sure if their writing style is for me. I love books that are set in California though so I may need to give this one a try!

  2. As it happens, the book is quite short. You'd be able to fly through it in no time if you do decide to read it!

  3. *sobs* Well, at least I'm comforted with the fact that I now have an excuse not to read this book right away. In the grand scheme of things, do their writing chops mesh well?

  4. I've been thinking on your question. I'm going to say no... their writing doesn't mesh well. Levithan's writing was noticeably better on every level. In my opinion, he carried the book, making it a worthwhile read. If LaCour's story stood alone, it would have been nothing special, just a writer spinning her wheels with an unbelievable romance, a weak main character, and awkwardly abrupt plot points.

    I regret being so harsh, but that's my job as a reviewer.

  5. How have I never heard of this book before now? David Levithan is a favorite - I'll have to look for this. :)

  6. Absolutely do! Levithan did great work here!

    The end.

  8. Something interesting about Levithan that I found out when I met him at his Will Grayson, Will Grayson signing... he is a big-league editor at a publishing house! I always wonder how that affects his writing style. Like, is he more confident because he knows the editing ropes? Or does it make writing more difficult in some respects? Regardless, I look forward to seeing what you think of his writing!

  9. […] You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan […]

  10. […] This was unexpected. It’s the only way I can describe my reaction to reading this book. Ellen (as always) has written up a wonderful and more coherent review (HERE). […]