You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan is a novel about love, friendship and finding yourself. Kate and Mark had been in the same class for years, but on the night where Kate found the boy dancing on a bar, everything changed.
This book was inspiring. I had read a few LGBT novels in my time and most seem to have the cliché of a boy/girl falling in love with their same sex best friend, the end of the book resulting in the two being a couple. However, whilst this was party true for ‘You Know Me Well’, there were definitely some fresh perspectives.
Mark has been in love with his best friend Ryan for years and, having read books with this similar premise, I imagined a scene where Mark would realise Ryan had the exact same repressed feelings and that they were going to live happily ever after would happen. But this was not the case. Instead, the authors focused more on Mark coming to grips with his confidence, but not the type when a gay man struggles to come out; Mark was already openly gay from the get go. Mark goes through a journey in this novel of accepting that life isn’t going to be perfect and that’s okay. The fairy-tale scenario where Ryan loves him back doesn’t happen (in fact, Ryan ends up with another boy in the end) and at first this is the main turmoil in Mark’s story and, as readers we are yelling at the pages asking why the hell Ryan doesn’t love him back. However, the main theme of this novel is friendship and I think no reader could deny that Mark and Ryan’s friendship is invincible. Despite initially being heartbroken by rejection, Mark realises there is light at the other end of the tunnel and it seems that the light bulb is Kate.
Kate falls in love with Violet, a girl her best friend Lenha has talked to her about for years. But when the two lovebirds finally meet, Kate is terrified. At first, I didn’t understand her anxiety: Kate was about to meet the girl of her dreams, and she likes her back, but she runs away? Then, like a light bulb switched on above my head, it was obvious that Kate too struggled with confidence and identity. Her fear about starting college is something that strays from the typical teenager who can’t wait to leave home. For me, the authors created one of the most realistic teenagers I’ve seen. Someone who’s not so certain on who she is yet or what the future holds, but she is willing to find out.
One of my favourite quotes from this book is from Mark. When asked who he is, he replies “I am becoming” and I think that rings true for a lot of people, especially teenagers. This book showed me the importance and value of friendship and hpw it can really change people’s lives. Unlike most YA novels, love was a subplot and the spotlight shone on the ever-strengthening friendship between two people. Two people who help each other and therefore send the message of how important it is to have someone beside you, to have a “partner in crime”.
I will happily give this book a 5/5 stars for it’s refreshing themes and relatable characters. The writing was comical, but also had that sophistication of a published novel, something that is usually difficult to find.