Monday, November 7, 2011


Although young adult books are experiencing broad popularity, their subject matter seems to be growing increasingly narrow. Check out the new YA section of any bookstore or library and you'll see one high concept novel after another: dystopian, dystopian, vampire, teen with special fantasy powers, vampire, dystopian, dead teenager on a mission, dystopian. On and on. It's likely that any book that doesn't fit into these tight strictures will automatically draw attention. It will be interesting to see how the Printz committee handles this situation. Are they going to give the medal to the best vampire or dystopian novel (think last year's selection of SHIP BREAKER) or are they going to buck popular trends and be drawn to something completely different?

David Levithan's EVERY YOU, EVERY ME certainly qualifies as "different" in almost every category: theme, style, execution -- even physical appearance. The story is told by teenage Evan, mourning the loss of his best friend Ariel. Dramatic, enigmatic, and troubled ("If I ever ask you to get me a gun, don't. Whatever I say, don't."), Ariel is no longer part of Evan's life, and the reason for her absence is just one of the mysteries that unfolds in this singular novel. An even bigger mystery involves the identity of the person anonymously sending Evan photographs depicting past moments from his relationship with Ariel. The photos -- some in black-and-white, others in color -- add intrigue to the novel, as does Evan's unreliable voice. Addressing Ariel in the second-person throughout, Evan changes his mind, second-guesses himself, and edits his own thoughts so that words, sentences, and even entire chapters are lined-out; reading these redacted sections adds layers of emotion, as well as surprising revelations, to the story. EVERY YOU, EVERY ME has a lot to say about both the depths and limitations of human relationships, the lies we tell each other, and the lies we tell ourselves. It's a smart, strong book flawed only by a confusing and somewhat flat ending that doesn't live up to the potential of the novel's mysterious premise.

PRINTZ-WORTHY? Perhaps. Levithan's novel would certainly be a unique and much-discussed selection, even if the book is ultimately less than satisfying in its entirety.

What do YOU think?

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