Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teen Review: With or Without You by Brian Farrey

Today one of our High School Tab stars, Libby stops by with a review of a Stonewall honor award winning book:

With or Without You by Brian Farrey

With or Without You is a romance/drama/teen angst book by Brian Farrey. I picked it up because of With or Without You, the U2 song, and I'm glad I did. 

At first, I thought With or Without You was going to be a chick-lit book about two boys, but it ended up being so much more. The story is centered around Evan Weiss, a gay high school senior living in Madison, Wisconsin. Evan and his best friend Davis, have made plans to go to college together and get out of Madison as quickly as possible, but their idyllic version of the future goes sideways when Davis gets involved with the Chasers, a group of gay youth led by a charismatic stranger with a hidden agenda. Meanwhile, Evan has been dating Erik, a volleyball player and sculptor who keeps secret from everyone, including Davis. Oh the drama! A few plot twists involve excessive suspension of disbelief, but they are made up for in art references and fantastic people and relationships.

Brian Farrey's characters are fully-formed people and make for a captivating story. He manages to deal with issues of sexual ethics, HIV, and homophobic bullying without becoming to preachy. With or Without You isn't "Glee" or even a Sarah Dessen novel. The characters are made aware of the issues, and then they confront and work through them in a realistic and rational way. I also liked the portrayal of Evan and Erik's relationship as healthy and romantic and physical at the same time. In my experience, media aimed at young adults doesn't portray realistic healthy relationships for straight couples, let alone gay ones. Most media also doesn't  want to touch sexual ethics, and With or Without You portrays characters' decisions and their impacts in a non-judgmental and realistic way. Farrey manages to include both the vulnerability that comes with inexperience and uncertainty, and the confidence that kids have because they are ready to take the world by storm. Evan, Erik, and Davis are all people I feel as though I've met.

I would recommend this book. In the name of full disclosure, I'm a sucker for character-driven stories, and With or WithoutYou is definitely character-driven. The relationships between the characters and the ways that they deal with the issues they face make this book worth reading.

I'd rate it 4.8 out of 5.

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