A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that You Know Me Well is a dual-point-of-view realistic novel written by acclaimed LGBTQ authors Nina LaCour and David Levithan about a gay junior and a lesbian senior who become fast friends the last week of school. Although the emphasis is on the protagonists' platonic friendship, they each have romantic relationships causing them trouble. There's a smattering of strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and several references to passionate kisses, friends who fool around and have had sex but remain "just friends," hooking up with new people, and loss of virginity, but none of it is graphic or crude. The books contains positive messages about LGBTQ youth and how support and friendship are necessary for teens to feel safe coming out. There are also messages about gap years, college, travel, and open communication between friends and between older kids and their parents.
What's the story?
Told in two points of view, YOU KNOW ME WELL is the story of Bay Area teens Mark and Kate, who've sat next to each other in calculus for an entire year but don't know each other until one fateful night when they both happen to be partying in San Francisco the week leading up to the annual Pride parade. Mark and Kate are both gay and in romantic dilemmas. He's out but in love with his best friend/secret friend-with-benefits Ryan, who seems to crave a hookup with someone else even though Mark is quite obviously in love with him. Meanwhile, Kate ditches a long-awaited meet-up with the object of her affection, Violet, the worldly and beautiful bisexual cousin of Kate's best friend. Kate spots Mark at a gay bar where he's competing in an underwear modeling dance-off, and the two connect nearly instantaneously. After an evening of adventure and heartbreak, Kate and Mark help each other navigate the last week of school, romantic possibilities and realizations, and even major decisions about the future.
Is it any good?
LaCour and Levithan's compelling if occasionally implausible story focuses on the beautiful relationship between two gay teens who are in the right place on a night they each need a friend. Both authors are gay, and it's the first time Levithan has partnered with a writer for a book where both protagonists are gay. Kate and Mark's instant connection might seem unlikely to some readers, but it makes perfect sense given their individual journeys that they would discover a kindred spirit in the other. Both are desperate for love but unsure if they've found a true version of it: Mark can't see beyond his complicated secretly physical relationship with BFF Ryan, and Kate worries the "real" Violet won't live up to her idealized vision of her.
Since visual artist Kate and baseball player Mark's adventures are set against the backdrop of San Francisco Pride, the book is particularly appropriate for readers looking for strong LGBTQ themes and characters. But the story is universal, too -- the main characters might already know they're gay, but there's still plenty up in the air. They're still dealing with romantic insecurities, confusion over their futures, and issues with their other friends (most of whom are also gay, since particularly in Kate's case, coming out in eighth grade meant becoming a beacon to the other queer kids). Two secondary characters seem a bit too perfect (Violet is nearly unbelievably sophisticated, and Ryan's new suitor is ridiculously perfect, with his trifecta of looks, smarts, and humanitarianism), but otherwise this is a touching and relevant tale about friendship and love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dual point-of-view books written by two authors. Why are they so popular? Is it obvious they're written by more than one author? What's appealing about co-authored stories?
The majority of main characters in this book are LGBTQ, but the themes are universal. Why is it important to read about characters unlike yourself? Why is it powerful to read about characters who are like yourself when you're in a minority community?
Is Mark and Kate's fast friendship believable? What are some other books in which the characters fall into friendship or even love rather quickly? Is it more authentic for people to connect platonically or romantically over the course of a short time?
- Authors: Nina LaCour, David Levithan
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
- Publication date: June 7, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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