|TITLE: Dying To Know You AUTHOR: Aidan Chambers|
PUB: Amulet Books PUB DATE: 4/1/12
FORMAT: ARC, 288 pgs SOURCE: from pub for review
In Dying to Know You, award-winning author Aidan Chambers has created an indelible portrait of a young man discovering his own voice in the world, and has constructed a love story that is as much about the mind as it is the heart. In this contemporary love story, a teenage boy named Karl enlists a famous writer to help him impress his girlfriend, Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a letter in which he reveals his true self. But Karl isn’t convinced he’s good enough with words, so he tracks down Fiorella’s favorite author and begs him to take up the task. The writer reluctantly assents, on the condition that Karl agree to a series of interviews, so that the letter will be based on an authentic portrait of Karl. The letter, though effective, has unexpected consequences for Karl, Fiorella, and the writer
THREE WORDS: Quietly Beautiful & Breathtaking
MY REVIEW: Aidan Chambers’ Dying To Know You turned out to be quite an unexpected and wonderfully unusual Contemporary YA read.
Shy, endearing Karl’s girlfriend Fiorella has asked him to bare his soul and feelings in the form of letters to her, in which he answers a set of questions she has asked. Karl doesn’t feel as if he can do this in a way that will impress Fiorella, so he seeks the help of Fiorella’s favorite author. And in a very Cyrano de Bergarac manner, the author agrees to help Karl. The author won’t write the letters completely by himself though; he agrees only to spruce up Karl’s own answers and feelings and does so simply by getting to know him. These letters, and the friendship between these two men, have unexpected consequences that transform the lives of all involved.
Told from the perspective of the elderly author, Dying To Know You is quite unlike most YA novels I’ve read, but this certainly isn’t a bad thing. What I thought was going to be a simple, humorous story of love turned out to be so much more.
This book is made up of a lot of dialogue, the first chapter alone is almost ALL dialogue and I found this really refreshing and oddly fascinating. Chambers writes in a very simple, straight forward manner and I found that I didn’t mind the lack of drawn out or lyrical descriptions. The book is not face paced and it did take a few chapters for me to get comfortable with the slow rhythm, but overall, I enjoyed this languid pace.
The story itself is quite the emotional journey- for Karl, the narrator and the reader. Karl and the narrator's unusual friendship itself makes for an engrossing and touching story, but add in Karl’s relationship with Fiorella and his mother and the secrets that both the narrator and Karl are keeping, and Chambers has created a complexly layered story. Chambers deftly and poignantly explores topics such as first love, true love, grief, depression and despair, and he does so in a very unassuming and beautiful way.
As the narrator, the author in the book keeps very little from the reader and I was fascinated by this soul baring, and at times soul bruising, look into the mindset of a character type that we don’t often see in YA. The author makes for a truly compelling narrator. Karl is young and good looking and subtly charming like many male YA characters, but he is anything but a cliché character. Karl has held in his crushing grief and depression over his father’s death seven years ago and when these things finally become too much they throw Karl into a dark tailspin.
Aidan Chambers explores Karl’s heart-aching descent into depression in an overwhelmingly realistic and captivating way. There are scenes, especially in chapter fourteen, that took my breathe away with their startling, honest and all-consuming confessions from Karl. I am awed by Chambers’ ability to create concrete, tangible emotions.
All the major characters grow and change throughout the story, and they all discover things about themselves that they never realized or were too scared/stubborn to realize. I really like the way Chambers choose to end the novel.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Dying To Know You may not be what I'm used to when it comes to YA Contemps, but this is what makes it so captivating and worthwhile. This is a smart, thought-provoking and wonderfully written book that moved and entertained me.