Desert Isle Keeper
You Know Me Well
You Know Me Well is a funny, bright YA coming-of-age story about love, friendship and identity – I loved it and would be happy to have it with me on my Desert Island.
This is a beautifully paced novel with alternating points of view, a structure that works very well here. The protagonists are Katie and Mark. Katie is an eighteen-year-old who is just about to graduate from high school and has a place at UCLA to study fine art. She is also in love with her best friend’s cousin, Violet who she has never met, but has got to know through letter and photos. Mark is sixteen, gay and totally in love with his best friend, Ryan. Mark is out of the closet with no problems there – Ryan is not out and is not ready to admit he is gay. They have been friends for years and as they got older have ‘fooled around’; this has meant everything to Mark, but Ryan doesn’t even acknowledge the occasional kisses and fumbles.
The story covers the period of Pride week in San Francisco and opens on the Saturday before. Mark and Ryan have each told their parents they are sleeping over at the other’s house. In reality they are in the Castro district at a club called Happy Happy, …kicking it up at the gaygantuan kickoff party for San Francisco’s very own Pride Week.
During the evening Mark finds himself trying to impress Ryan and disprove his view of Mark asSweet sixteen and never been risked…or Cowardly Connor…Timid Timmy. When Ryan suggests he join the midnight underwear contest and dance on the bar he agrees and does go through with it. This ends up putting events in motion that will change their teenage lives.
…while I’m still up there in my underwear, thinking he’s the only person in this whole place who knows who I am – I see another face I know. It’s like the song stops for a second, and I’m thrown. Because, yes, it has to be her. Here in this gay bar, watching me dance near naked over a carpet of dollar bills.
The senior I sit next to in Calculus.
This night, which leads to the fast growing friendship between Katie and Mark, is the vehicle that drives this book through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager – and setting out on the road to the future. This book isn’t an ultra gritty urban story, or a mushy unbelievable teenage romance. Katie and Mark could be the teenagers next door or the teenagers you used to be. It doesn’t matter whether this is a story with LGBTQ characters or straight characters; it is the universal story of growing up and falling in love.
Sometimes the pain of unrequited love was so hard to read through my tears – Mark explains how he would fight for the oblivious Ryan –
…none of that could be nearly as hard as being in love with him and not being able to tell anyone about it. Including him. I have this thing inside me, and it’s angry and it’s scared and it’s uncertain and most of all it’s so completely in love with him, and it would do anything to keep him, even it if means things staying the way they are now.
And as though he can’t stop all this flooding out he tells Katie –
”I can’t let him fall in love with someone else. I can’t let it happen. Not like that, I am so mad at him and I am so in love with him, it hurts to be realizing it like this. Would I fight for him? I have been fighting for years. And I’m losing. No matter what I do, I’m losing. But I have to fight anyway.”
While Mark is losing his fight for Ryan, Katie is going through her own fight for herself, for Violet and the understanding of what Violet means to her. Being that little bit older than Mark, and on the edge of the abyss that is college and the future, her problems and thoughts are slightly more philosophical and slightly less emotional. Although some of the sweetest scenes imaginable are between Violet and Katie. This brings me to the no sex aspect of this novel – Hoorah! There are kisses and allusions, but this is a tale of intellectual growing and the awkward emotional side of that tense part of our lives, we call “the teenage years”.
Towards the end there is a conversation between Katie and Mark that for me, encapsulates this delightful novel –
”Yes – the heart is a treacherous beast, but it means well. That just about sums it up.”
“What they never tell you is that it’s actually the friendship part that’s harder. Kissing is easy. Kissing has its own politics, but at the end of the day, it’s kissing. It’s the real stuff – the being-part-of-each-other’s lives piece of it –“
“ – being close to twins without being twins – “
“Yes! That is both the challenge and the reward.”
I recommend You Know Me Well to anyone looking for a sweet, philosophical, delightful and thought-provoking novel full of heart.