You by Charles Benoit, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2010, ISBN: 978-006-1947063
“You’re surprised at all the blood.
He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt.
He’s surprised too.”
So begins You, the story of Kyle Chase, 10th grader at Midlands High. Kyle is part of the “hoodies” clique, a group of boys who wear black sweatshirts, black baggy pants, and “sullen, pissed off expressions.” Kyle didn’t always act this way. Back in middle school, he was friends with a group of smart, motivated students. Those friends went to Odyssey High, leaving Kyle to fend for himself at the failing Midlands school.
Kyle’s 10th grade looks like it will be as miserable as last year. His teachers don’t like him, his classes are boring, and he still hasn’t gotten the courage to ask the one girl he likes out on a date. When “Jake the Jock” catches him with his wallet, he becomes the bully’s target for abuse.
When a new, eccentric student at Midlands takes an interest in him, Kyle is at first suspicious. Zack is smart, witty, and also bored with school. After he defends Kyle from Jake and invites him to a swanky party at his house, Kyle starts to trust him. Then one of Zack’s friends warns Kyle that “Zack finds your weak spot, then keeps pushing till you crack.” Now Kyle must decide if Zack is his savior or the one who will bring him down.
I picked up You when I saw all the glowing blurbs on the cover from such great authors as Patricia McCormick (author of Sold and the recent Never Fall Down) and Michael Grant (author of Gone). I was immediately drawn into the story by the powerful opening (which is actually the ending) and the use of the second person narrative. The author is a former high school teacher and clearly knowledgeable about his setting. His descriptions of boring classrooms and draconian school punishments are realistic and show how they affect student motivation. While much of Kyle’s problems stem from his failure to make good choices, a large part of his tragedy comes from the lack of caring in his home and school environment.
Zack is both the best and worst part of the novel. His personality is so dynamic and engaging that he makes every scene he’s in entertaining and fun to read (especially when he helps defend Kyle against Jake and his lacrosse cronies). Unfortunately, he’s also the least realistic character and his motivations are never clearly explained. He and Kyle remain somewhat static characters, neither changing from beginning to end. As a result, the novel becomes somewhat predictable as it speeds along to its final pages.
Information about the editor
Charles Benoit is a former high school teacher and the Edgar Award-nominated author of three adult mystery novels and the teen novel, Fall From Grace. He lives in Rochester, New York. You can visit him online at www.charlesbenoit.com and follow him on Twitter (@BenoitTheWriter).
Young Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up