When a book has a cover as dramatic as YOU by Charles Benoit it creates some pretty serious expectations for a reader. When a book has a cover as dramatic as YOU and a chain of glowing recommendations from the likes of Chris Crutcher, Lauren Oliver, Patricia McCormick and others, you get really curious.
YOU is the riveting story of Kyle Chase's hellish high school experience. He's an average kid who is a lot smarter than his grades or his behaviors suggest. Kyle is stuck in a school with a poor reputation. He's stuck with parents who don't understand him, boring and/or jerkish teachers, slacker friends, and a girl he's secretly in love with but who doesn't seem to see him as anything more than a friend. And that's not including what happened last year that made him put his fist through a schoolbus window. Nothing is working, but nothing is changing. Until Zack McDade, an unusual guy with his own baggage, shows up and makes everything even more complicated.
Does it measure up in feeling and pace to the expectations created by the cover? Yep. I'm not fully sold on the way this book opens with a prologue (super intense and barely two pages long). Truth to be told, however, I'm not sure in general about prologues. They can be manipulative, and a little grabby. A good part of the experience of reading this book means feeling like you're reading in great part to find out the who / what / where / when / why of the moment described so dramatically in the prologue. For a while, I like that. After a while, I feel as if I'm speeding because I'm curious, rather than taking in as many of the books strengths as I might otherwise notice if I wasn't thinking "tell me tell me tell me" the whole way through. Benoit's choice of second person narration pulls you into Kyle's thoughts and while it takes a little getting used to since it isn't a common point of view, it works well in the end. I enjoy a slim book that is carefully constructed, and YOU is exactly that. There's no extra stuff here, which is impressive. Also, as the key secondary character, Zack McDade is intriguing and memorable. He's a star. I'd read a whole book about Zack.
In the end, I'd describe YOU as provocative, twisty and clever, very much worthy of its striking cover and gushy reviews.
YOU is published by Harper Teen.