For What It's Worth

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

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. (YA)

Every You, Every Me is unlike any book I've ever read. It is told though a series of photographs and strikeouts. According to the acknowledgments, author David Levithan saw a photograph (now the cover of Every You, Every Me) on the refrigerator of his friend, photographer Jonathan Farmer, and came up with the concept of writing a photographic novel. In a collaborative effort, Jonathan would send David a photo and he would write the novel incorporating the pictures. Jonathan didn't see the story until it was complete and David didn't know what photo would be sent next.

Every You, Every Me was emotionally draining but SO good.

Evan is struggling without his best friend Ariel. We don't really know what has happened to her or where she has gone at first, although there are hints. Ariel's personality burned bright, experiencing wild highs along with wild lows, dragging everyone who loved her into her orbit. Evan clearly worshiped and loved Ariel but had to watch as she fell in love with Jack. Even so, he's always felt a unbreakable connection to her that he felt no outsider could touch.

Now that Ariel is gone, Evan is left with Jack, the only other person who knew Ariel the way he did. They are both in pain from "what they did to Ariel". Again we aren't really clear as to what exactly that was. Someone starts leaving pictures for Evan to find. Pictures of his time with Ariel, pictures of Ariel with strangers (to Evan), meaning that she led a life without him or Jack. A life he didn't know about. This is a psychological mystery where we are not only left to discover the person stalking Evan and Jack but also are left wondering about Evan's slipping grasp on reality.

The photograph element is used to great effect. When Evan discovers a photograph in his locker or by the road, we see it along with him. It gave an element of being "in" on the mystery and the chilling feeling of being watched. As the sender gets more aggressive also sending notes declaring that he/she knows what Evan & Jack did to Ariel, Evan becomes consumed with finding this person. Sometimes to the detriment of his own sanity.

The strikeouts took some getting used to. I felt like I was reading two different stories at first but once you get used to it, you realize just how much it adds and Every You, Every Me shouldn't be told in any other way. The strikeouts are a way for Evan to tell his story in addition to giving us glimpses of his and Ariel's past, as well as hearing Evan's thoughts unedited to let us see his real fears. Evan's head is a sad and lonely place to be in but the strikeouts allow for the range of emotions we need to complete the picture.

I have to admit I don't really like psychological mysteries or thrillers and that this one didn't grab me too much on that level either. On the positive side, I thought I had the mystery of Ariel all figured out but then something happened about halfway into the book that changed everything I thought I knew up to that point and made me question my assumptions. The resolution was satisfactory but felt a little melodramatic, with a tidy conclusion compared to the almost cluastrophobic intensity of the rest of the novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Original, clever and unrelenting in it's intensity. Every You, Every Me had me in a dark place for a few days after reading but it was worth it.

Find the author: website, Facebook, Goodreads
Buy the book! Every You, Every me
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers September 13th, 2011
Source: Received through the Amazon Vine program for my honest review

*This book qualifies for the YA Contemporary Challenge hosted by The Undercover Book Lover


  1. Whenever I need an intense book, I'll pick this one up. Great review. I'm not really a mystery or thriller fan, but now I'm intrigued. :)

  2. Awwww!

    *hugs* Though I've seen the cover around, I hadn't stopped to really read what this book is about. I think the darkness of it would have scared me off, but your reassurance that it's worth it has me wanting to check it out after all. Thanks, K!

  3. I usually love books that are emotionally draining. That might sound a bit masochistic, but books that can get such a reaction out of me usually are good ones!

  4. Eek, eek! I'm sure it's tremendous writing, but eeek! I can't handle it. :-) Glad you got to experience some great writing, though!

  5. Wow, I did not know this book was like that. It sounds like it was incredibly challenging to produce. I will have to read it, even if it's just so I can admire the uniqueness of the idea.

  6. i like the idea of the photographic novel, but wow this sounds way too intense for me!

  7. Wow that does sound heavy. I'm not a fan of psychological thrillers either but this was a great review, I didn't know anything about this book until now.