You by Charles Benoit

by Kat Alexander

You Pick Up This Book…

Your name is Kyle. You’re fifteen years old. You’re really smart, but you didn’t push yourself to get into the smart school so now you’re stuck. It’s boring down here, but whatever, right? You’re one of the school’s ‘hoodies’—the bad boys with the hoods and the same black t-shirt every day. You’ve got a crush on a girl named Ashley, and maybe someday you’ll actually ask her out. Life is defined by not getting caught. But you’re fine with that.

Except Zach comes along. He’s smart too, but he’s different. And he’s made it his mission to screw with as many lives as possible at this new school, your school, having been kicked out of his last. He’s taken a particular interest in you, actually.

What’re you gonna do now?

It’s definitely a good book, Benoit’s fourth. But notably it’s his first YA book, and it shows—though not quite as much as the fact that the entire idea came as a challenge from his wife. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to guess this had I not heard the author speak in October, but it’s obvious there’s something a little off about the book. It’s extremely fast paced and very short, and it definitely leaves something to be desired. I could scarcely believe it was over until I realized that I was staring at the back cover of the book.

The telling of the tale is brilliant—told in the second person in a style that is almost hypnotic, drawing you in until you stop remembering that, no, you haven’t suddenly turned into a fifteen-year-old boy named Kyle with a crush on a girl named Ashley who wears the same black t-shirt every single day (unless you are already, in which case, that’s kind of creepy and you seriously need to read this book). There were moments where I wasn’t sucked in quite as much—Ashley is a distraction—but for the most part, total enthrallment. The story unfolds in a slightly chaotic but overall incredible way, with flashbacks and copious amounts of foreshadowing, that resembles an exhausted runner jogging and occasionally sprinting along towards the finish line, and at the end, collapse.

But really, Ashley, what does Kyle see in you? I’m torn between whether it’s smart or completely idiotic that Kyle moons after this girl who has no redeeming qualities (he doesn’t even listen to her when she’s speaking to him). There are books with half-baked relationships, but at least the protagonist gives some half-decent reason. Not with Ashley. Kyle just becomes a broken record, noting every now and then that he loves Ashley and that he wants to have sex with her. That’s lovely, Kyle. But I’m not buying into it. Which is kind of a problem when I am you.

Aside from Ashley, all the rest of the characters are charming and brilliant in their own way. Kyle is particularly interesting, being smart though not motivated in the least, and acknowledging the fact. His love for his little sister is also intriguing and nicely adds another layer to his personality.

Still, it’s really Zach that steals the show. So strange, so different, so…well, you’ll just have to read it and draw your own conclusions of Zach. Personally, I rather like him in that way that if we were to meet there would be no possible way it would end well.

Go ahead a read it. At worst, if you absolutely hate it, you’ll only lose a couple hours. But honestly, even if you don’t like it, you will be intrigued—by the whole second-person narration, Kyle, Zach, not to mention the beginning of the story, when it opens with “You’re surprised by all the blood…”

Kat is a freshman at a nerd school. She believes there are two types of people who plot: novelists and evil dictators, and aspires to some day be both.

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