Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Between You and Me

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Between You and Me

Between You and Me
by Marisa Calin
To be published by Bloomsbury
on August 7, 2012

Source: Received e-ARC from NetGalley. Read my review policy/disclosure statement here.


My summary:  Phyre is excited about the school play, fascinated by her new drama teacher, and not aware that her best friend is in love with her. This innovative book about the intensity of crushes and young love is told in screenplay format and, as such, is able to keep the reader in suspense about whether Phyre's BFF is male ... or female.

My take: I usually have a strict policy against epistolary fiction. I have trouble losing myself fully in a story that's told through poetry, email, texts, etc. I find the format distracting and the story flatter. So when I saw that this book was written in screenplay format, I put it on my "probably not" list. Then I read about the gender-neutral (gender-mysterious?) character and I was curious enough to request Between You and Me.  

What did I think?
I enjoyed Between You and Me. I always appreciate it when an author goes out on a limb, and I loved the creative risks that Marisa Calin took with this story.

How was the format? I'm always going to prefer stories told in prose. I haven't read many screenplays, but this seemed to me a combination of screenplay and first-person narration. Then there's a cool story-within-a-story, as the story incorporates the play that Phyre is starring in, a play that's also about the magic and disappointments of young love.
"I want to be that girl: the girl kissed passionately after evil is vanquished, with fireworks and an orchestra, and it's everything she wants."
This aspect of the book -- the one that deals with all the agonies and excitement of falling in love for the first time -- is lovely. Okay, on to Phyre's genderless friend. Was it a gimmick? A little bit. I was distracted as I read, looking for clues. Hoodie? Okay, both girls and guys wear those. Smiling? Guys don't smile as much as girls. Terse? Well, guys are terse but so am I, and I'm a girl. I also hate shopping and asking for directions.

If I had to describe Between You and Me in two words, I'd choose clever and coy. The format of this book and way it uses that format to play with gender stereotypes is very clever. The book's coyness comes out in the way that it hints but never confirms. Does Phyre have a platonic girl crush on her female drama teacher, or is she discovering something new about her sexual orientation? Readers may disagree. Similar questions could be posed about Phyre's relationship with "You," her best friend. Does Phyre's crush on her teacher help her see her relationship with "You" in a new light?


Between You and Me deliberately leaves most of these questions tantalizingly unanswered. The book is a Rorschach test of sorts to which the reader brings his or her own preconceptions and experiences. If you're looking for something completely different to read, definitely check this one out.

Random fact: the cover of Between You and Me reminds me a lot of the movie poster of the Stanley Kubrick Lolita movie, sans lollipop.

30 comments:

  1. Definitely agree about the comparison to the Lolita poster-it's the heart-shaped red sunglasses, they seem to deliberately call back to this.

    I have this on my to-read list and I happen to LOVE epistolary novels so I'm really excited to hear about that. The other part does sound gimmicky but I'm already sold on the format so that's good enough to intrigue me.

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    1. LOL -- I usually have a policy against spelling mistakes too but I did some crazy invented spelling on epistolary. I think the heat is getting to my brain...

      If you love epistolary fiction, then try this for sure!!

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  2. This sounds like a really interesting book. Thanks for the great review. I have never read anything in this format. It intrigues me.

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    1. I wasn't sure about the format but I ended up enjoying it!

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  3. Yea the pictures do look similar and have the same glasses. Wow sounds like this book makes you think a lot and come up with your own answers. I don't mind using my imagination but not for every problem and question. Very good review.

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    1. Thanks -- I liked the mental challenge -- nice change of pace!

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  4. I am really excited about this book but I totally agree about not digging books in anything but basic format. A letter here or there? Okay but the trend towards books that are made up of texts and emails seems lazy and lacking depth to me. But when I first heard about this book and the exploration of Phrye's sexuality and her ambiguous best friend, I was hooked!
    Her name though, really? Phyre? Just name the poor girl Beth and get over yourself.

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    1. Yes, but the name sort of fits within the context of the book..

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    2. Well, now I feel very silly. It just seems that names have become very complicated in YA books or they go out of there way to be asexual. You know, no one is just named Amy anymore. It was meant to be funny, really, and that name is very unique and pretty...Sigh. I will have to read the book now more than ever.

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    3. I just read a YA dystopian and I swear I figured out the formula the author used for making unusual names. I'm putting it in the post so we can all try it out. And I hope that author has as good of a sense of humor ;)

      As a reviewer I appreciated this name because it was unusual and memorable. I actually have trouble keeping the Beths straight OR if the name is really unusual, I have to keep looking it up to write the review.

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  5. Great review Jen! I like the cover a lot! I agree they totally match! :)

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  7. This sounds really intriguing, it'll be interesting to read a book where you can't predict exactly what's going to happen. I find more often than not that within the first chapters of a book, I can see how everything's going to play out. Take Cinder for example; I really loved it, but by the first few chapters, I'd already correctly guessed her true identity. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I feel that way a lot! Try this book -- I guarantee it will keep you guessing!

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  8. Hi Jen,
    A friend sent me your review and I'm so glad she did. I've never been tempted to comment on a review before, but I wanted to say how amazing it is that you were ready to put aside your initial reservations (if only we could all do that more often) and be open to the quirks of my book. That's extra rewarding and the very reason I put so much trust in the reader. Thanks for a really thoughtful review.
    Marisa

    P.s. And thanks, fanofasymmetry! I laughed out loud at "name the poor girl Beth"! Next time, maybe... Or else I'll think up something even more pretentious just to keep you on your toes.

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    1. Marisa,
      Thank you for having such a amazing (understanding) sense of humor and for visiting Jen's great blog! I am really excited to read your book and to see an author explore the topic of gender stereotypes in YA fiction. Thank you for your response and being such a good sport.
      Sam

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    2. Hi Sam,
      I really did think your comment was funny and in real life, I couldn't agree more! I think the craziest thing is the way people spell names now. Kaytlynne, Kameryn, Kourtni, (and that's just k). The goal seems to be to use as many consonants as possible. I would never put a real baby through Phyre, but in fiction you use as few words as possible to evoke as much as possible. Thus, the poor girl ended up with an evocative name. Never feel silly for expressing a valid opinion. Especially when you have a point!
      And Jen, even getting epistolary into a sentence is impressive. That's why we have editors, so you don't see all of the nonsensical things we write.
      For anyone who the eloquent Jen as convinced to pick up my book, I hope you enjoy it.

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  9. Hi Marisa,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and I'm glad you did!
    Hopefully you read the version of the review without the embarrassing spelling error :)

    I try to keep an open mind, but when I find out a book is written in other-than-prose, my heart sinks a little. I'm pretty sure I once tweeted that books written in poems should come with a warming label.

    As I said in the review, I think the creative risks you took really paid off. The book was thought-provoking, charming and a lot of fun to read!

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  10. This type of book doesn't appeal to me..but my daughter eats the epistolary for breakfast..she has a whole book shelf of them..so i will pass this one along to her!

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  11. Now I feel like I have to read it to see if I can figure out what her friend is.. I've never really read an epistolary fiction novel before.. I might have to give it a try.

    Great review Jen!

    And yes, the cover does look like the Lolita poster!

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    1. Yes -- read it and see what you think. I swear there's no right answer. Or maybe we need to grill Marisa about that!

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  12. Wow! I'm really intrigued by this book. I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on this one... thanks! :)

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  13. I read a lot of screenplays, but I'm not totally sure I'd be into this one. It's an interesting concept, but I think it would completely frustrate me.

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    1. With the format or the ambiguity???
      Try it and see what you think!

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  14. I can't get into poetry books either so I know this will be an out for me but thanks for honest review.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. Well, I'm completely allergic to stories in verse, but I got used to the screenplay format pretty easily.

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  15. I think this sounds really cool! I do tend to enjoy prose more than other forms, but I really enjoy the Jessica Darling series and that is written in journal entries and emails. So the screenplay format probably wouldn't bother me as much as it would for others. But I'm really drawn to the fact that "You" is left genderless. I think that's really clever! Great review, Jen!

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