Book review: You Know Me Well, by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

LaCour You Know Me WellNina LaCour and David Levithan. You Know Me Well: A Novel. St. Martin’s Griffin. June 2016. $18.99. 248 pages. Hardcover. ISBN: 9781250098641

Over the week of Pride celebrations in San Francisco, high schoolers Mark and Kate discover that they have more in common than calculus and end up becoming fast friends. Kate helps to comfort Mark when he finds out that his best (closeted) friend doesn’t feel the way he does romantically, and Mark tells Kate that she needs to stop running away from everything in her life — college, her artistic talent, and Violet — the girl that she has been pining over for months.

While the journey that our protagonists take is a fun one, the reader may not be convinced of the realism that the book portrays. Almost all of the characters here are queer, confident, and all friends with one another. It’s unusual to find YA titles that display characters so self-assured and without possessing larger, serious issues of being part of the community, such as mental illness, homelessness, abuse, and more. The families display acceptance and everyone gets along just fine. It seems that the authors give us a taste of what Pride should be like in a utopian world: everyone gets lost in the opportunities of the weekend and what it means to them, meetings with strangers are romanticized, and all of the young’uns come out of their proverbial shells. San Francisco is beautiful and might as well be a minor character– it’s the ideal queer city — and it gives a sense of optimism and hope to everyone who is celebrating. But, real life isn’t like that, and young readers need to keep that in mind while being swept up in the flawless storylines.

This is definitely an easy read, once the reader gets started. Fans of David Leviathan or Nina LaCour won’t be disappointed by the journey our protagonists take or how the authors’ descriptions revel in what Pride is supposed to mean, ideally, for everyone. I admit, I wish this book had existed when I was in high school. It reassures the reader that life is an adventure, and that you have to jump in headfirst to really enjoy it. Recommended for high school readers and above, and for libraries who want popular LGBTQ+ titles and authors.

Judi Tichacek
Reference Librarian, Elmhurst College

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