You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LeCour
Release Date: June 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Plot: Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
All I knew about this book before going in was that both main protagonists are gay and it’s set in San Francisco. I like that, I really do.
But this book had me asking more questions than just outright enjoying it.
It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s fairly dramatic at times when it needn’t be (putting that down to teenagers being teenagers) but overall, it’s an LGBTQ+ contemporary that is treated in the same way as a summer contemporary that’s about straight people and their romances and going off to college fear and the ‘future’ talks.
But I began tight rope walking around two ideas about the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in, specifically, contemporary teen fiction. Because let’s be honest, it doesn’t happen often.
So, you have stereotypical plot lines, ones of coming out, of being the ‘gay best friend’ to the protagonist, of being pressured to be someone you’re not, of being in constant fear because it is what a lot of LGBTQ+ youth live through; fear, uncertainty, and distrust. Friends and family can turn against you, you can be hurt. But of course, it’s important to show hope and goodness in these novels too; characters who live happy and fulfilled lives, who become successful, where their sexuality is only a part of them and not the only thing that has to be written about them.
And this is where You Know Me Well fits in. I think every single character in this story is LGBTQ+, which is fantastic. But after reading a few tweets and other experiences with this and other novels, it got me wondering about the realism of a novel like this. A novel that portrays San Francisco as this LGBTQ+ bubble that has no conflict or struggle.
Ignorance and hate do not exist here, and while I would love, and I mean LOVE, for that society to exist, it does come into question whether or not erasing the struggle of LGBTQ+ youth is either an insult, or just a hopeful portrayal of the future. Although, this novel is set in today’s society (contemporary, after all.
I’m going to take this with a pinch of salt, because I genuinely did enjoy the fact that the characters were ultimately happy and fulfilled, as well as dealing with ‘normal’ teenage things that you might find in your bog-standard teen contemporary, rather than struggling with their sexuality; they know they’re queer, now let’s move on to the ACTUAL teen dramas like “WHY DIDN’T HE TEXT ME BACK??”