Even in the San Francisco suburbs out gay teens don't have it 100% easy. This story recounts a week in the lives--Pride Week--of two instant best friends, Mark and Kate. Mark is in love with his long-time bestie, Ryan, and Kate is in love with a girl she's never met, Violet.
Mark and Kate's narratives unfold in alternating chapters, authored by Levithan and LaCour, respectively. I see from an interview with LaCour that their collaboration was like that game where one person says a sentence or a piece of a story, and the next person in the circle has to follow from there. Not really a collaboration, then but a your turn/my turn, trying to match one another's tones and visions. I see Levithan likes to co-author books, which I think is all kinds of sweet.
The voices resonate well enough that I didn't know until I looked at interview that the authors didn't write the whole thing together.
It being Pride week, there are parts of the story that come together all-too magically, like artistic success, the appearance of a fairy godfather, instant BFFs, instant soulmates, but you don't mind, because it's YA, and you're not reading it for layers of complexity and punishing realism. That's not to say that there aren't age-apt sophisticated language and imagery. Mark observes, "There are some guys at the party who look like what my dad wold like like if he wore lots of leather, and there are others who look like they're auditioning for selfies. Everyone's sentences crash together to make this gigantic noise, and my thoughts overlap so much that all I can feel is their loudness."
At the same time Kate is dealing with a BFF, with whom she is not in love, nor possibly even in like just now. Lehna refuses to give up calling Kate "Katie."
When you're friends with someone for such a long time, it's easy to feel like she belongs to you, like the version of the person who you became friends with is the only real version."
That's the heart of Kate's struggle, trying to figure out who she is, giving up everyone else's expectations and visions of her identity, an identity she never even chose herself. "I never chose to be called Katie. As far as I know, that's what my parents called me the moment I popped out, and I never even thought of the other possibilities until recently."
Unlike Kate, I threw out my given name by the age of nine. It's not even on my passport, but I deeply identify with Kate's struggle to throw out her expected behavior.
I'm never the difficult one who vetoes the restaurant choice or doesn't want to go to the movie because I've seen it already. There is always soemthing to like on a menu, some new meaning to glean in a film. Maybe the fact that I'm easy is the reason I'm their friend.
Okay, maybe I won't go to a restaurant that has nothing vegetarian on the menu, and I'm too cheap to pay to see a movie twice unless I really love it, but in general, with friends and family, I'm easy. I don't know if that's out of a fear of being replaced, like Kate's or what.
I dogeared one more page in a Kate chapter, where she's talking about why older folks at Pride take to them, want to get to know these clueless teens. I'm not sure I agree with it, but Kate feels like their elders enjoy the drama in the teens' lives, the passion that goes away as one gets used to heartbreak and inured to all the emotion teens experience.
You Know Me Well is a sweet read. I was glad to spend time with the protags and bought where and how they ended up.