This YA collaboration between David Levithan and Nina LaCour is told in alternating chapters, from the perspectives of Mark and Katie, who meet during the first night of Pride in San Francisco; I say “meet,” but they’ve actually been sitting together at school for ages and just never spoken. This seems to happen a lot in books and I am, frankly, not convinced by it; as a teacher, I can say with confidence that kids talk to whoever is sitting next to them, behind them, on the other side of the room to them and, sometimes, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones, in a completely different lesson to them. Anyway, communicational implausibility aside, the point of You Know Me Well is that Mark and Katie randomly meet and bond instantly, thus embarking on a whirlwind friendship which everyone probably has once in their life. Probably during their Freshers’ Week.
Here’s what I found most refreshing about You Know Me Well; as far as I have read, most YA LGBTQIA fiction focuses on the “coming out” moment, and does so brilliantly. Here, Levithan and LaCour pick up the story beyond this point, with both Mark and Katie openly gay, with no agonising about telling parents or being accepted necessary: it’s all been done. Mark’s main concern is his best friend and love of his life, Ryan, who seems quite happy to benefit from Mark’s affections in private but begins the novel out on the pull with Mark as his wingman. Poor Mark. He’s really lovely and I expect most readers will spend the duration of the novel shouting, “HE DOESN’T DESERVE YOU!” until they have to have a little sleep or something. I ams sure life is very difficult and confusing for someone in Ryan’s situation, but I do not care for his uncaring treatment of his supposed best friend. So there.
Katie has her own problems – for one thing, she’s trying to get people to call her ‘Kate’ instead and it’s not working. I totally sympathise. As a Katy (yes, there are two ways to spell it) myself, I am all too aware of the limits life places on you when you have a name suited only to under-10s with bunches. Katie harbours a long and either romantic or slightly stalky passion (depending on your perspective) for Violet, a teenage circus entertainer who she has never met. The opening chapters, as Katie and Mark pursue Violet through San Francisco (again, romantic or stalky, depending on your perspective), reminded me of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, in a good way, although I did slightly lose patience with Katie as she kept inventing reasons not to be with Violet. Teenagers are so dramatic.
You Know Me Well has a mild case of Dawson’s Creek Syndrome, insofar as I’m pretty sure teenagers don’t speak like this but wouldn’t it be awesome if they did? There are some slightly cheesy but satisfying lines, which I will be aiming to use on my husband next time he thinks I’m behaving suspiciously normally: “I don’t want to be your wingman – I want to be your goddamn copilot” for one, and “Taylor is my date, and you are my calendar” for another. Can we all imagine Pacey and Joey saying this to each other? Good.
There’s something a bit lovely about You Know Me Well; it’s affectionately written, and you can tell that the writers really like their characters. Being set in one of my favourite cities never does a book any harm either. I wholeheartedly recommend this for your holiday reading.