You Know Me Well By Nina LaCour + David Levithan
This book did a lot, both plot and character-wise and just for me personally. It covered so much plot, theme, and character growth for just 250 pages. The writing made this book go by fast, in a way that hid how much the characters were changing and how much you were learning and questioning as an individual due to the plot.
When I set the book down, just comprehending what I had just read, my mind was blown that THIS WHOLE AMAZING, WELL-ROUNDED STORY took place only in one week. The writing was seamless, despite that fact that it was written in alternating perspectives and by two different authors.
Hiding and denying and being afraid is no way to treat love. Love demands bravery. No matter the occasion, love expects us to rise. - p. 243
The theme of this book was so beautifully subtle, but also struck so close to home. The theme tells you not to plan because life is supposed to surprise you really makes you rethink your life. However, that wasn't it; the plot also told me to take advantage of things when they pop into my life because they came for a reason. The plot also demanded that I not run away from opportunities or people in my life made me rethink times when I had stayed home or blown off someone because I was "tired" or "not feeling well". I also learned from this theme that nothing is over until it is over; I learned that I should stick with something until the end if I wanted my best possible shot.
He wants to put in perspective, but it's all his perspective. - p. 169
Now onto what made my heart so truly happy: this book was so blissfully gay. Taking place in San Francisco during Pride Week, I'm pretty sure that the only prominent(ish) straight characters were parents. I just loved that. It was so refreshing. I am so used to little to no LGBTQ+ representation in books, so to see a book with almost all the characters identifying as LGBTQ+ was just different. A definite good kind of different. This aspect of the book was so unique and almost a polar opposite to what other literature looks like. The queer stereotypes that usually plague YA books just weren't present in this book. You Know Me Well accurately portrayed love and heartbreak and the fear of being outed, or worse being outed and then shunned or disowened. Yes, it is almost a statistical improbability to have an entire town be populated by only queer people, but so are many, many other things in literature.
I also loved the friendships in You Know Me Well. I loved Katie and Lehna's relationship, even if it was heartbreaking how far they had let their relationship slip; their relationship was real and raw, despite it all. I really enjoyed the flashbackish thing at the end when they talked about Lehna and Katie's life freshman year - how they did everything together, even coming out to their parents.
I can only imagine that the relationship between Katie and Mark is quite similar to that of David Levithan and Nina LaCour. And I have to say that I absolutely loved it - the relationship defied all odds, moved almost as fast as a one night stand, and just ran so deep for the two only knowing each other for a week. Mark and Katie's relationship was something that I wish I could have - if only I had the courage to make friends, to make an impact so close to an ending. However, after finishing You Know Me Well, I know that I can have that relationship, if only I try. Katie and Mark were just kind of like "Let's be friends" and went with it. Mark and Katie were dynamic on the page right from the start. They were so cute together, but not in a romantic way - which was so utterly refreshing. Also, random side note, I thought it was cute and funny when they called the gay boys "scenic" boys. I had many laughs during that conversation.
I loved how Katie's passion for art was written. I always love seeing a passion for something besides people in a movie or book and this portrayal was no exception. You Know Me Well added something unique to the long list of cliche passions, though. I loved how Katie's art lead Mark and Katie on so many cool adventures. I loved the poetry slam, the art show, the school newspaper (both the known one and the underground one), and the party that the photographer invited Mark to.
I have to step out of love with him, because the ground I've always wanted to be there was never really there. - p. 213
The romantic relationships in You Know Me Well were portrayed exceptionally well. Ryan and Mark's relationship - a could have been love affair - was heartbreakingly honest and hit a bit too close to home for my liking. Their relationship was in a rough place, but they knew that they would get through it together. I liked how they showed Mark both struggling and on his way to finding new love. It was cute. It was genuine and sincere.
It was unclear what we were celebrating, other than the celebratory fact that we made it here, that we were in this moment. - p. 233
I also really liked how Violet and Katie's relationship was written. The anxiety of meeting someone new and all the big expectations being wrong were written so well, so real, so raw. Katie just bailing on Violet may have been perceived as inconsiderate or uninterested, but I can attest that it is probably just her anxiety speaking. I know what that feels like. I have been in (somewhat) similar situations to Katie and almost 9 times out of 10, I reacted the same exact way as she did. A lot of the time, I regret it later, but I am not aware of that logic in the moment - I am just trying to get out as soon as humanly possible. I think that Katie's regret after she bails is portrayed very realistically.
I also loved to see Violet and Katie heal together and come to love one another. The message in their relationship for was: you can make new friends (or girlfriends) if you overcome your anxieties. That was decidedly an encouraging message for me.
Here we come - through hard days and good ones, through despair and exhilaration, in and out of love, for just now and for forever. - p. 248
Overall, this was a worthwhile book with great messages, dynamic characters and relationships, an enthralling plot, great, accurate representation, and beautiful, swoon-worthy romance. And don't forget about that gorgeous writing!