BOOK REVIEW: YOU KNOW ME WELL BY NINA LACOUR & DAVID LEVITHAN
You Know Me Well is a book written by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, telling the stories of Kate and Mark in alternating chapters. The two go to the same school, but never hung out together until they meet at San Francisco Pride Week just before the school year ends. Kate is a high school senior about to leave for college to go to UCLA for their art program, a prestigious program she can’t believe she got into. She is the self-described polar opposite of the lesbian stereotype of “committed to commitment”, but she is about to get the chance to finally meet the girl she’s been in love with from afar for a long time.
Mark, a shy sixteen-year old baseball player, finds himself joining an underwear contest at a bar on the first day of Pride. He’s painfully in love with his best friend, but is stuck in the in-between zone of friends and lovers that doesn’t even count as the “friend zone” anymore. His moment of boldness and confidence leads to him meeting Kate, and the two of them running off into the night together. During Kate’s last week of high school, the two form a close friendship and help each other in making some important decisions.
The book is fast-paced yet covers only one week in great detail. Details are skimmed over, because you realize along the road that they don’t matter in this story. The characters are relatable and tell stories not only recognizable for LGBT teenagers, especially Kate’s struggles with college, friendship and external expectations.
Some young adult tropes are deliciously on the background in this book. High school politics, quirky teachers and angry parents are all present, but not annoyingly so. Instead, the book focuses on love, friendship and personal maturation, just like real life. Some characters are amazing and you will fall in love with them, like June and Garrison Ford. Other characters you will end up hating to love, but no spoilers on those yet.
So although you never see Mark involved in anything baseball (don’t American school sports teams train like three times a week?) and you never learn what makes Violet (Kate’s love interest) interesting apart from the fact that she’s in the circus, the book is a great YA coming-of-age story. It’s another piece of evidence that David Levithan knows how to do collaborations, and every girl-loving-girl should read Nina LaCour. The characters’ approaches to love, their similarities and differences, they show that love doesn’t care for genders. I can recommend this book to anyone looking for a good YA story.
A special thanks to St Martin’s Press, as well as NetGalley, for the ARC of this book.