Every You, Every Me by David Levithan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9/13/11)
Review by Kelly Lucas
In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan's starting to believe it's Ariel that's behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.*
Every You, Every Me was dauntingly beautiful and terrifically scary. David Levithan has such a way with words. He can take a simple plot and a simple character and turn it into one of the deepest books I have ever read.
All we know is that Ariel is gone. We don’t know how, we don’t know where. We just know that she’s gone and she’s left Evan, her best friend, and Jack, her boyfriend, in the wake of it all. When Evan begins receive the mystery photos, he wants to find out who is sending them. Jack just wants to move on. But from what, exactly? What happened to Ariel? Every You, Every Me is a mystery worthy of Margo Roth Spiegelman of Paper Towns** by John Green.
Just like Margo, Ariel haunts every page of this book. She’s there, but she’s not. Evan is our narrator and he is very troubled by the disappearance of Ariel. Matched with photos by Jonathan Farmer, Levithan really brought Evan, Jack, and Ariel to life quickly and fully. I cared about these characters from page one, even though I knew nothing about them. That is the beauty of David Levithan’s writing; it was the heartache of friend lost that I connected to.
This is annoying.
I love how David Levithan really attempts to go outside of the box with his writing. He writes so differently and is constantly creating new ways to tell a story. With this story, I learned that he and his photographer, Jonathan Farmer, “wrote” the book together. Levithan would get a picture from Farmer and write a bit, then ask for another photo. New and innovated; that’s David Levithan and that’s why I love him.
About half of the book has its narration striked through. This technique was very different than what I am used to. I understand that Levithan wanted the reader to know these thoughts of Evan’s but Evan wanted to take them back. Unfortunately, it annoyed me. The effect was done well, but done a lot and I just didn’t like it. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love the book, though.
Still a Must-Read
Evan’s voice and his journey to find the messenger of the photos and our journey to figure out how Ariel disappeared was brilliant. Truly, truly brilliant. I’m not a fan of mysteries, but this was not a traditional mystery, it was a contemporary mystery. And it was Evan’s mystery; we were just along for the ride. He sought out the clues, which were far and few. The answers to his questions just led to more questions. Kind of like LOST, but with better writing. There are times when I knew what happened to Ariel, but then I would turn the page and Evan had me recanting those thoughts.
Unlike most of Levithan’s books, Every You, Every Me moved a little slowly. Yet, by the time you hit the climax, it’s a straight drive home. I loved the ending and the “solving” of the mystery was not what I expected. Levithan has never disappointed before and he did not disappoint me again. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves DL, loves contemporary mysteries, or had loved a friend and lost them.
**If you haven’t read Paper Towns, you should. Margo is a mystery herself, which is why Ariel reminds me of her.