For my second YA novel of this month, I chose You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan.
I picked this book up last year in hopes of learning more about sexual identity and preference. It was way before I started reading diverse books, but even then I was curious as to stories like this. I was afraid of approaching people and still afraid to this day to say something stupid or make someone feel uncomfortable, so I decided to look for books that talked about being gay or questioning your identity. I definitely knew I didn’t want to be the dolf that said “so what does being gay mean?”
The great thing about You Know Me Well is the subtly of the subject. It’s not this big shout to the void screaming I AM GAY AND I HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT. The story begins with the characters already knowing this about themselves and they blossom like flower buds to fully incorporating their lives with the new knowledge that they have.
I had read Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay a few months back and she was able to do this subtle conversation about sexual preference in that novel as well. It didn’t read about a girl who is trying to figure out if she’s straight or gay. It read like a story of a young woman lost from the tragedies bestowed on her life and how she found solace in her first soulmate ever. It was beautiful.
I think the important lesson about sexual preference and identity is normalization. Asking questions and trying to understand why someone was gay are all in the past. At this point, in 2017, you either are or you’re questioning and your sexual preference doesn’t define you. Your friends are your friends because you like them and you get along. They’re not there to be your “gay best friend” or have the word “gay” put in front of phrases like “bestie” or “shopping buddy.” We’re at the point where no one should be defined by their sexual preference unless they want to.
But let’s get into the details of the story and stop talking politics.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book written by two people, but somehow these two authors are able to seamlessly combine their two stories into one. Honestly, it felt like one voice the entire time coming from one author, but what each author brings is a sense of authenticity. You’re the gay jock that’s in love with your best friend or you’re the girl in love with a crush for so long it’s almost surreal to be with them in real life. Mark and Katie dealt with things only teenagers go through and they were able to find each other to help figure this out on their own.
I loved that after a night of knowing each other Mark and Katie were just best friends. They were looking to each other for advice and trying to help each other as if this was something they did all the time.
Mark was in love with his best friend, so it made it difficult for him to discuss things with him that he wanted to talk about specifically about their relationship. Katie was in love with her best friend’s cousin and while she was secure with her feelings for her, she somehow managed to mess it up at every turn.
It was quite cute and beautiful at the same time. The writing is effortlessly easy to get through and a lot of it was conversational. I think that’s the great part about YA sometimes. You don’t get too caught up in making the language something out of an AP English class, but you make the subjects hard hitting ones where the people they’re meant to attract will learn a little bit about society.
You can find a copy of You Know Me Well: A Novel on Amazon.com