You Know Me Well – Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Have I ever mentioned that David Levithan is one of my favourite authors? Probably. Even though I was bitterly disappointed by the last few books of his I can’t remove him from my list of favourites. I mean, this is the guy who contributed to Nick and Norah and who gave us the classic Boy Meets Boy after all. When I saw he had co written this with Nina LaCour, who is the genius behind the Disenchantments, I couldn’t pass up a chance to request a copy. I’ve always loved David Levithan collabs before, so I had high hopes going into this book and honestly, the excitement I had when I opened the first page stayed with me right to the end.
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.
I think we have found a collab made in heaven.
So, for those that don’t know, David Levithan is a great writer on his own, seriously, I know I didn’t like Marly’s Ghost or Another Day all that much, but the Lover’s Dictionary, Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing… Pretty much everything else of his I’ve read, I’ve adored, creepily, I think he might have a secret tap on my brain because everything I read of his seems to address one of my fears or thoughts or desires and puts it into a more articulate phrase than I ever could. His collaborations with Rachel Cohn have always been my favourites, now I think this might be. The whole book just flows wonderfully and its almost impossible to figure out who is telling who’s story, Nina LaCour and David Levithan just compliment each other beautifully and the host of characters they’ve created are a joy to read.
As the blurb says, this is the story of two kids who have sat next to each other in school for an entire year, but have never spoken, over the course of one night, they really connect and become the very best of friends, which is just as well really, because the rest of their respective friendship groups are kind of falling apart. One of the great things about both of these authors is they always have a really diverse cast of characters and this is no different. First off, we have Mark, the school’s star baseball player who happens to be out and proud and sort of with his best friend, Ryan, the literary magazine’s editor who is definitely not out. Mark is head over heels in love with his best friend with benefits, something said best friend appears oblivious to. Then we have Kate, or Katie, depending on how she’s feeling that day, who is about to graduate and has fallen straight into an existential crisis which is not helped by growing apart from her own group of friends and being terrified at the prospect of actually meeting the girl she’s been pining over all year, throw in an awkward, but some how totally believable meet cute and the adventure unfolds.
One of the best things about Levithan collaborations is the profound journeys the characters go on, in Nick and Norah, two people meet while on the search for their favourite band’s secret show and find themselves as well as each other. In Dash and Lily, two strangers meet and fall in love through following notes left for each other in a borrowed book which leads them all over the city and out of their comfort zones. This is no different. Mark is scared of change, he’s scared to rock the boat with Ryan, he’s scared Ryan will never want him back. Kate is scared, she’s scared of growing up and going to college, she’s scared of meeting Violet who might just be the love of her life… They find themselves thrown together and out of a random night of party crashing and sharing secrets comes a beautiful, intense friendship between the two. I love books about friendships! Especially male/female friendships! There is just so few books that just explores being friends these days. The male/female best friend dynamic was one of the things that I loved about Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments, which I highly recommend by the way!
Both Mark and Kate narrate the story of that night and what follows,in alternating chapters. Normally, this would be something that would raise concerns for me, but two authors means the two characters have naturally distinct voices and naturally different views on each event. Also, much like the two authors compliment each other well, Mark and Kate compliment each other well, they know when the other should follow their heart and when they should follow their head. They found each other just when they needed each other the most and the fact that the friendship doesn’t feel contrived is part of its charm.
I feel like I need to wrap this up before I start fangirling over how much I love these two authors, because you know, you guys are here for the book not my nonsense. So, how can I describe this book? This book is effortlessly charming, the characters are endearing and relatable, it’s bittersweet, its adventurous without being unbelievable and at its core it’s about finding who you are and what people in your life will support you in being that person. I think, while this book is generally a great read and one you should pick up if you’ve ever enjoyed a David Levithan or a Nina LaCour book before, or just like YA in general, this is the perfect story for kids who are out and are taking the next step. One big plot point of this book is that it all centres around Pride week in San Fransisco, the majority of the main cast are not straight, most of them are out and its all fine and accepted, one is struggling. I often find when I read LGBTQA+ books, the majority of them are about coming out and then the rest of them are kind of doom and gloom about being LGBTQA+, there are some exceptions obviously and this is one of them. This is the what happens after the coming out story that is often missing from the shelves.
Basically, this is a quick, fun, read with a heap of interesting characters written by two fabulous people that you should check out, especially as holiday season is coming up – you’ll need something to take away with you to read!