A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this latest novel by the co-author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a hyper-emotional novel about teens trying to process the fallout from the actions of an unstable friend, Ariel. Ariel's suicidal tendencies and dramatic mood swings have a profound effect on her close friends Evan and Jack. Evan expresses his ongoing pain and inner struggle, accentuated by crossed-out text passages that show the reader what this character is feeling but not saying, and his feelings of loneliness and grief are just as troubling as the events to which he's reacting. This book is highly relatable for emotional teens, but it is beyond the experience and comprehension of young children and probably preteens, as well.
What's the story?
Full of pain and self-doubt over his own actions toward his unstable friend Ariel, Evan begins receiving cryptic photos and messages from some anonymous source. The photos -- of Evan, Ariel, and places where Ariel and her friends have been -- stir up fresh feelings of pain and confusion as Evan and Ariel's former boyfriend, Jack, try to make sense of what happened between them, and what the nameless photographer is trying to tell them.
Is it any good?
EVERY YOU, EVERY ME is emo with a capital E, but it's also a terrifically relatable and powerful book for teens. The tortured narrator, Evan, suffers even more than his friends can know, and Levithan uses text strike-outs to reveal the feelings his character struggles to hide. Jonathan Farmer's photos are also extremely effective: Some are overexposed, some are small, some are clear -- serving to further explore what is revealed and what is concealed. And the very idea of each of us showing different selves to different people is something almost any teen reader can identify with.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concept related by the title Every You, Every Me: that there's more than one version of each person, and we know only the self that our friends reveal to us. Other friends might know that same person very differently. Do you show a different self to different friends, or to your peers vs. adults?
For much of the novel, Evan feels responsible for what happened to Ariel. Did he and Jack do the right thing? Help your kids understand that one friend can't "save" another.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is the way it's constructed. The photos, and the idea of the photos, create more mystery than they solve; and the crossed-out passages let the reader see another side of Evan. What do you think the photos add to the book? What does the reader learn from the parts that are crossed out?
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