5 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Title: Every You, Every Me

Author: David Levithan with photographs by Jonathan Farmer

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 13th 2011
Hardcover: 245 pages

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.< em>

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Why did I read this book: For starters, it is David Levithan and I love his writing. Then there is the photographic element which made me curious enough to give it a try even though I am always wary about concept novels.

Review:

Every You, Every Me is a concept novel, written by David Levithan around the photos that Jonathan Farmer sent him. Levithan did not know what photo would come next and Farmer did not know what Levithan was writing. In addition, large parts of the novel are written in strikethrough. I am not sure this worked as well as it was supposed to I am always wary of concept novels because sometimes I can’t help but to feel that the particular writing premise gimmick trumps everything else as though I am supposed to be so awed by the concept that I will forget about the really important things.

The story follows a tormented teen named Evan whose best supposed “only” but not really friend Ariel is not around anymore. The not-around-anymore part is the important bit: most of the story concentrates on the mystery of what happened to Ariel and where is she now, with Evan going through some serious shit apparently blaming himself for whatever happened to her. And then Evan starts finding photographs – left on his way just so he can find them – capturing him and Ariel just before Ariel went missing was taken away left. This leads Evan who doesn’t seem to be a very stable guy to start with into a state of growing paranoia, guilt and fear. Is he being stalked? Is Ariel doing the stalking because she wants revenge for what Eva has done? Is he making it all up? What the hell did he do?

It started out really well. The first few pages were angst-filled, unsettling to the point of claustrophobia. The photographs were so haunting they added a degree of atmospheric tension and the way Evan reacted to them psychologically was extremely distressing. It is really clear from the get go that Evan has problems, that Ariel had even bigger problems and their relationship was obsessive not exactly healthy. One of the most interesting things about the novel was the idea what one never truly really knows another person completely even when there is love and closeness. The more I read, the more I hoped to understand the nature of Evan and Ariel’s relationship and why things were happening the way they were. I also wanted to know more about Ariel and how come everybody was so obsessed in love attracted to her like moths to the light was she a Mani Pixie Girl I will never know because we hardly ever know Ariel. But I never did things phased out in such a laughable ridiculous simplistic way in the end, with the revelations of not only who was behind the photographs but also about What Evan Did that was soooooooo serious and intense that I nearly threw the book against the wall almost didn’t believe that I reached the end of the book.

Furthermore, as the story progressed, I found myself growing tired with the excess of strikethrough words as it turned out to be extremely repetitive and confusing. If you found this review annoying, this is nothing in comparison to the book There were entire paragraphs and even pages that were entirely crossed out. Although usually I find that this can be an interesting and effective way of providing extra insight into the mind of a narrator, here they happened all the time and to a point where I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to signify. At times, the crossed out words disclosed uncertainty; at others it seemed that Evan was trying to hide feelings. Sometimes they were memories he seemed to want to suppress, sometimes entire made-up dialogues – it is confusing because all of these are different thought processes and signify different things – at least that’s how I see it. For example, take this is ONE continuous paragraph:

I read where they lived California London Florida Montreal Chicago, and even though I knew they wouldn’t have flown in to leave photos in my locker, I checked out who theirs friends were and what their photo albums looked like. I should have felt like I was knowing you more by learning about all these people, but instead I felt I was knowing you less and less. She might not have really known these people, I tried to convince remind myself.

The first type of crossing out is not at all like the second and I am not even sure why the first was really needed? What does it add to the story?

One could definitely argue that all this could point out to how unsettled and unhealthy Evan’s mind is and that is definitely how I read it – until the ending proved me completely wrong and not in a clever or satisfying way: things were wrapped up in a hurry and very superficially. Given the amount of psychological problems Evan and Ariel (and heck everybody else around them) obviously had, the ending to me, was lazy at best.

Although there are some commendable things about the book (David Levithan is a good writer after all), I didn’t feel it lived up to its promising start.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

1

It was your birthday. The first one after you left vanished were gone.

When I woke up, I dreamed thought about other birthdays. Ones where we’d been together.

Like two years ago. Freshman year. When I had you all to myself. I asked you what you wanted and you said roses, and then you said, “But not the flowers.” So I spent weeks gathering presents: a polished piece of rose quartz, White Rose tea, a ceramic tile I’d bought at the White House in fourth grade featuring the Rose Garden. A novel called Rose Sees Red, a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, a mix of songs by bands called Blue Roses, the Stone Roses, White Rose Movement. Then I rigged your locker with pulleys, so when you opened it, all the objects rose. I’m not sure you got that part, not until I told you. But you were so happy then. This was before happiness became so complicated. This was when you could ask me for something, I could give it to you, and the world would be right.

And then there was last year. You went out with Jack at night, but I at least had you for the afternoon. I asked you what you wanted and you said you didn’t want anything. And I told you I wasn’t planning on giving you anything; I was planning on giving you something. That whole week, we started to divide things into those two categories: anything or something. A piece of jewelry bought at a department store: anything. A piece of jewelry made by hand: something. A dollar: anything. A sand dollar: something. A gift certificate: anything. An IOU for two hours of starwatching: something. A drunk kiss at a party: anything. A sober kiss alone in a park: something. We ended up spending the afternoon walking around, pointing at things and labeling them anything or something. [Should I have paid closer attention? Written them down? No, it was a good day. Wasn’t it?] At the end, you pointed to me and said something. And I pointed back and said something. I held on to that.

Now it was a year later. I wished you a happy birthday. That word again. Happy. It’s a curse. The pursuit of happiness makes us deeply unhappy. It’s a trap.

Before anything else happened, there was me in bed, thinking of who you used to be.

I don’t want you to think I forgot.

Rating: 5 – Meh.

Reading Next: Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, google, kobo, and sony

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11 Comments

  • April
    October 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Huh. I’m reading Shatter Me right now and there’s a lot of strikethrough in that book too. As much as I am enjoying Mafi’s writing so far, I really hope this gimmick isn’t going to be a new major trend in YA Fiction. It makes my eyes hurt.

  • tess
    October 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Oh God, this one was a mess. I adore David Levithan’s work, but this was awful. Usually he can work something that would feel gimmicky with another writer (I’m thinking will grayson’s lowercase, writing a novel as a dictionary) but this time it was just forced and confusing and bad.

    There was none of that open-heartedness, that eloquent, sweet description of love, that’s his trademark. I mean, EY,EM is a writing exercise for God’s sake. A writing exercise.

    I’m going to reread Boy Meets Boy and pretend this never happened.

  • Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    October 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Eek, I think the strikethroughs would be the end of it for me, too. I don’t mind quirky formatting, but if it makes the book tough to read, or if the book relies on it, then no thanks.

    (Mark Danielewski comes to mind–one novel was told mostly in footnotes, and another required you to read from the front, and then from the back. Very tough on the reader.)

  • The Book Memoirs (Elle)
    October 4, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I have to put my hand up to being a self-confessed David Levithan non-lover. I know he’s a very popular writer and I know a lot of people are a bit obsessive about him but I have to admit to not really being able to get on with him in general. I read the first half of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and wanted so badly to love it but it was just so… writing-by-numbers.

    That in mind, it actually makes me happy to see a negative opinion about this book because I think it has reached the point of hype where you’re almost obliged to like it because GASP, David Levithan wrote it! I saw some sample pages of the novel, got about five pages in (out of 15, I believe) and then couldn’t believe how bad it was. I think that it speaks to your point about concept novels and gimmicks and this one all reeks of being Ransom Riggs done wrong. In the case of Miss P’s, I think the pictures complimented and teased out a more complicated story, in the case of Every You, it seems that there isn’t that much of an original story going on at all and my presumption of writing-by-numbers is more apt than ever. 🙄

    Negative Elle will go back into her corner now! ➡

  • Ana
    October 4, 2011 at 2:25 am

    @ April: I will be reading Shatter Me soon – i had no idea it also had crossed out words as well. It is interesting that two major books this year have this…..humm I do wonder too.

    @ tess – it pains me to say but you are right – this was a mess, I agree. The more I think about it, the less I like it. Boy Meets Boy is my fave Levithan book as well

    @ Stephanie – I am afraid that this one book does rely a LOT on this. Entire pages were crossed out. 🙁

    @Elle – LOL. I thought about the Miss Peregrine a lot when reading this one and that was SO MUCH better than EY,EM and I AM a Levithan fan (usually)

  • Marta Acosta
    October 4, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Well, I’ll take this off my to-read list. I hate gimmicks because they are gimmicky. It’s like making a dinner using only white food just because someone dared you to make a dinner using only white ingredients: that’s not a good enough reason. When you set up the challenge to write based on photographs, you make your story serve those photographs and, thus, secondary to them. Which would be fine for a book of photography.

    Strikethroughs are annoying, but I can see their use in moderation. Otherwise, they’re annoying.What is it with writers making readers jump through hoops just for a stream-of-conciousness story? Jeez.

  • SaraO @ TheLibrarianReads
    October 4, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Oh boo, I love a good concept novel…and I’m actually a lover of the strike-through. But only when used well. Too much is always too much. I can just imagine the headache reading this novel caused.

    As always, thanks for the honest and in-depth review!

  • Kailana
    October 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    That’s too bad you didn’t enjoy this book more. I really want to read it at some point!

  • Every You, Every Me by David Levithan Book Review
    October 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

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  • Kenzie
    November 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I just finished this book today, and I’ve been searching the web for what other people thought of it. I thought the cross out method he used was very creative but if you dont read it like he intended you to, the words can get quite confusing. 😀

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