Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

Shinjuku is one of the twenty-three wards of Tokyo.

I'm finally back to book blogging from Tokyo! Those who are accustomed to my serene Maine landscapes, can you believe this is my new neighborhood? I've joined my husband on sabbatical to Japan, where I'm gathering material for a new young adult novel and learning the language. Our two months abroad went so quickly. By this time next week, I'll be back home in Maine, molding my experiences into a realistic story. While writing, I avoid books that are too similar to mine, but I still read YA fiction set in other locations.

Given the recent spike in hate crimes and political turmoil in the USA, I wanted to share a novel that fosters tolerance. Now, more than ever, we need books that show diverse characters as normal teens, not as victims. You Know Me Well (June 2016) is a contemporary YA novel set under the rainbow of San Francisco. Authors David Levithan and Nina LaCour narrate this heartwarming friendship story in alternating chapters: Mark is a hot jock with a secret crush on his closeted best friend, and Kate is a talented artist who is scared of finally meeting the girl of her dreams.

Although the subplots are romantic, the central relationship is a platonic friendship. Kate and Mark are likable protagonists and the hip San Francisco setting is fun. The struggles they face are universal: academic expectations, parental pressure and shifting relationships. The realistic narrative includes gay characters who have faced abuse and homelessness, but the main characters have accepting, loving parents and openly gay friends. They live in a comfortable suburb and attend a good public school. Still, life is not free of angst. Many teens will relate to the feeling of knowing what you want but lacking the self confidence to claim it. A buddy who supports and encourages you makes all the difference. Any teen could use a friend like Kate or Mark.

The writing was strong too:
"...friendship is about more than facts. It's about knowing what someone is thinking or knowing enough to know you don't."
Photo from my CA trip with my daughter
I highly recommend You Know Me Well for both heterosexual and LBGTQ teens and to the adults who care about them. The gorgeous hardcover book would make a fine holiday gift.

Related posts:
Diverse YA, Gay Romances for Teens
Diverse YA Romances

Reviewers Disclosure: I read an excerpt of this novel in Buzz Books 2016 via netgalley, which lead me to purchase the ebook for travel. Since I loved the book and saw some similarities in our writing styles, I queried Nina LaCour's literary agent, who signed me as a client too.

The foyer garden outside my apartment in Tokyo. By the time the leaves fall, we'll be back home in Maine.

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@Barrie Summy


Jenn Jilks said...

I might just have to read this one! I am fascinated with your trip! Enjoying it vicariously...

Stacy Nyikos said...

I am getting this one for my second daughter. She's in the LGBTQ community here, and the things she's experienced first and secondhand from the less than accepting have been heartbreaking. Anything to make her journey to adulthood a little less fraught with hatred would be wonderful!

Barrie said...

Have you seen San Francisco's recent reply to Donald Trump? Here's a link:

You Know Me Well sounds delightful. Thanks for reviewing! And I'm enjoying your trip, too. ;)

A Cuban In London said...

You're right. Now, more than ever, we need this type of book. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

troutbirder said...

Certainly seems relevant given the climate here now...:(

thecuecard said...

Though it's been a great time in Japan -- I'm sure you'll be happy to get home to Maine. The big city life is a bit out of your wheelhouse, am I correct? But I bet it has given you a lot of ideas for your next book.

Sarah Laurence said...

Jenn, I’d love to hear your reaction.

Stacy, it’s good to hear that your daughter has a supportive community and mom, but I’m sorry she’s had some hard times too. Nina LaCour has written other literary YA novels with lesbian characters that got a lot of starred reviews.

Barrie, I did see San Francisco’s resolution and was impressed. If only all states would take such a strong stand! I hope CA doesn’t leave us, though. Brexit was bad enough. Thanks for hosting the book review club!

ACiL & troutbirder, I can only hope that progressive books will encourage more people to demand political change.

Cue, Tokyo is draining but writing in my peaceful tatami room overlooking the rooftop garden has kept me sane. All great material, true! Still, I’m looking forward to returning home soon.

Linda McLaughlin said...

This sounds like a lovely book.

So glad you enjoyed your time in Japan. How interesting to live in another country. I'm envious.

David Cranmer said...

I've been enjoying your pictures from Japan, Sarah. And looking forward to reading your book when the time comes.

Amanda Summer said...

This book sounds like a wonderful addition to the YA genre.

I've been enjoying your posts about Japan and hope there will be more to come. Safe travels home and wishing you a happy holidays and easy adjustment to winter back in Maine!

Sarah Laurence said...

Linda, Japan was fun, but it's also nice to be home.

David, thanks so much! That's just the encouragement I need to write another chapter.

Amanda, You Know Me Well is indeed a fine addition to YA. Once I've settled back into home and finished my holidays prep, I'll blog more about Japan. It is hard getting used to the sub freezing temps after a mild fall in Japan, but I love the snow and bright blue skies. Happy holidays to you too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for yet another inspired review. I shall (literally) check this out!