You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

“A tulip, a dahlia, a freesia, a rose.”

October is LGBTQ+ History Month. I’m celebrating by reading the young adult novel You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan.

Mark and Kate, high school students in San Francisco, alternate narrating the events of this fictional novel set during the first week of pride month.

Kate, previously known to friends as Katie, is a senior and an aspiring artist recently accepted to UCLA’s art program. She’s a typical teenager: wants close friends, is anxious about her future, and could use a bit more confidence. Kate and her long-time best friend Lehna seem to be growing apart as graduation nears. But Lehna’s cousin Violet, who Kate has never met, becomes an obsession to meet (and maybe love). Along with their couple friends June and Uma, the group heads to a pride house party where Kate is expecting to finally meet Violet.

red rose flower you know me well david levithan nina lacour young adult lgbtq+
“It looked like a flower. Slowly, we approach it, side by side. A rose. Of course. Bright red.”

Mark is also a high school student and he plays on the baseball team. He’s tall, handsome, and reserved in a way that can only come off as mysterious. Mark and his best friend/sort-of-sometimes-boyfriend, Ryan, snuck out to go to a bar for the first night of pride. Shy Mark is convinced to join the underwear show on top of the bar and ends up winning a prize and some unwanted attention from other party-goers. Ryan is eager to meet new men, much to the disappointment of Mark, who secretly loves him. The two have been fooling around for quite some time, but Ryan struggles to admit that it might be a relationship, or that he is actually gay.

When Kate gets overwhelmed at the idea of meeting picture-perfect Violet, she ends up at the bar just in time to see Mark dancing happily in his underwear on the bar. Their eyes lock and then they realize: they have been sitting next to each other in Calc class all year. What a perfect way to form a friendship.

Kate is offered the chance to show her art at a gallery in the city, her dream come true. Who walks into the gallery next, but the lovely Violet? A budding romance has Kate bewildered and elated, but she still strives to help Mark deal with Ryan’s new boyfriend.

New friendships arise, while old ones crumble. Mark and Kate support each other through heartbreak and big life decisions. Will they find love? Will they find themselves? Will they mend past relationships?

“Yes-the heart is a treacherous beast, but it means well.

-Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well

You Know Me Well is an excellent and exciting read full of romance, self-acceptance, and empowerment. LaCour and Levithan weave together their two sides of the story flawlessly. Each main character shines individually, but their friendship is what makes them come alive. The alternating narrative makes this young adult novel unique and engaging.

Themes of sexuality, friendship, and romance carry the pair of narrators and their friends. The dialogue left something to be desired. It felt a bit forced and insincere at times, but it did push the story along. The events take place over about the course of 10 days, and the book is only 250 pages long, so I can easily forgive more shallow dialogue to complete the story in time.

I love the scene where all of the main characters (and quite a few supporting characters) are gathered at a slam poetry event. Beautiful and deep poetry pours from these young adults. It’s real and relatable.

I recommend this book to readers wanting a good romantic or platonic relationship story, especially anyone interested in learning more about the LGBTQ+ community along the way. Relatable characters and problems, built around one of the most exciting weeks of the year, you’ll want to give You Know Me Well a try because you’ll probably love it enough to finish it in one sitting.

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