100-Character Breakdown: A well-paced novel about a new friendship, filled with queer characters, depth, and a lot of heart.
Genre: Young adult, LGBTQ
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (June 2016)
While Katie and Mark have spent an entire school year sitting next to each other in class, it isn’t until San Francisco’s Pride Week that they first talk. Nina LaCour and David Levithan’s novel You Know Me Well explores their relationship as they go from strangers to best friends. The school year is about to end. Katie, a painter, is about to graduate. She’s worried about college, she’s distancing herself from her friends, and when she is about to meet Violet, the girl she’s dreamt of meeting all year, she runs away. Mark, a baseball player, is struggling with his feelings for his best friend, Ryan, who is also gay. But unlike Mark, Ryan is in the closet. Before long, Katie and Mark will know each other better than their best friends ever did.
Although the novel takes place in a single week, it is packed with plot points and character development. At first it seems unlikely that two people could grow so close so fast, but the writing allows this relationship to progress naturally despite the speed. While the authors alternate chapters between the two points of view, they achieve a consistent pace and tone in the narrative. You Know Me Well is full of LGBTQ characters, almost to the point where every character is queer, allowing the novel to showcase a variety of queer people and take the time to develop them into three-dimensional characters. This is a novel about choices, change, and how relationships can shape a person. And while this is certainly a relationship novel, it puts friendship first, and in that realm it absolutely shines. Katie and Mark each have enough depth for a book of their own, but it’s the relationship between them that brings so much heart to this novel.