It’s been eight years since I graduated from high school, but the feeling that David Levithan and Nina LaCour capture in this book, in the last few days of the school year, is exactly what I remember.
Mark is finishing up his junior year of high school, trying to decide whether he wants to let his best friend/often-more-than-a-friend Ryan know that he wants to step firmly into more-than-friends territory. While out at a bar, Ryan dares the usually subdued Mark to compete in an underwear dancing contest. To Ryan’s surprise, Mark obliges. To Mark’s dismay, this does not make Ryan see him as any more of a romantic prospect than he did five minutes ago.
What this does, though, is get the attention of Kate, a senior in Mark’s calculus class. While this could have been disatrous, Mark and Kate actually form a fast friendship, bonding over their mutual love disasters. Kate is in love with her best friend’s cousin, Violet, from afar. The two have never met, never spoken, never even texted, but Kate knows that she’s in love. Her best friend tells her that Violet feels the same way. But for some reason, when it comes time for the two of them to meet, Kate bolts. She runs right into Mark’s underwear dance, and the rest is history.
(Well, not really. This is just the setup for the book. The rest is about 200 pages, featuring Kate’s anxiety at leaving for college, Mark’s very real struggle to accept Ryan’s feelings, and the friendship that builds between these two former strangers over the course of just a few days.)
This book took me right back to my childhood bedroom, a thousand miles from where I am now, both literally and figuratively. It took me back to that feeling of being terrified about my future, excited about moving on but unsure of what would happen to all of my relationships as I moved on to the next chapter in my life.
This book is coming-of-age at its best, when you’re forming new friendships while trying not to leave the old ones behind. When you want desperately for things to stay the same, but you’re also ready for a change. When you struggle with staying in your familiar friendship, or letting your friend know that you’ve developed more-than-friendly feelings for them. It perfectly encapsulates that feeling of growing up and having to make all these decisions and not knowing which one is right.
I can’t imagine not giving this book five stars. Because this is the David Levithan I remember. This is what kept me reading his books, one right after another, when I was the same age as Mark and Kate. I loved this book so much, and now, please excuse me while I check out all of the David Levithan and Nina LaCour books in my library.
A big thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for the advance copy!