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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
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Review: You

You by Charles Benoit. Harper Teen. 2010. Reviewed from ARC from publisher

The Plot: You.

The Good: You are you. You are Kyle Chase.

OK, enough of writing in the style of You!

Told in second person, Benoit pulls you into the story, makes the story about you and your choices and your friendships. Your slacking off (why?) in middle school, so you didn’t go to High School with your friends from the gifted program, and you began hanging out with the hoodies and drinking and getting Cs and you liked Ashley but couldn’t tell her and now you’re standing there, with shattered glass and blood and screaming won’t help because it’s already too late and how did you get here?

Some people say the teen books that scare the hell out of them as parents are the books where bad things happen to teens.  Me, – while not a parent, I’m an aunt, and a friend of many a parent – I am scared by the books about kids who get lost. Not literally, but figuratively.

Like Kyle, lost without any real reason. In the first chapter, with the blood and knowing it is already too late, Kyle thinks, “You’re just a kid. It can’t be your fault. But then there’s all that blood. So, maybe it is your fault, but that doesn’t make things any better. And it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Think. When did it go wrong?” When did it go wrong? Is it one thing, the sum of many things, or nothing at all? What were Kyle’s choices that led him here? You takes you along on Kyle’s journey. It’s not just Kyle’s journey. It’s yours. What choices have led you to where you are now? Can you change where you are at?

You provides a –well, a villain, of sorts. I won’t tell you who, among Kyle’s friends, family, and acquaintances, is the bad guy. Maybe it’s Kyle. Maybe it’s you. But it is chilling – and honest – and truthful. Because sometimes, motivation for action is not that someone wants to do good or to do bad. Sometimes, the motivation is just that they can. So they do. And that is also scary. A person who pulls a string for no reason other than to see what happens. Or, because the person knows what will happen and does it anyway, to see if people are really that predictable. So a person takes an action, suggests, hints, and does it something simply to get a reaction. It is so much softer and more potent than simply manipulation. And being that person, that puppet master. That, too, is a choice, a result of choices.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. I heard a really interesting work-in-progress at a writer’s conference last spring that was written in second person, and most of the editorial feedback she’d gotten had been that it was an incredible book but the second person thing scared them (the editors). So I kind of hope this book does really well, so it might open some doors for this other lady’s book (which is totally different in plot, otherwise).

  2. Very scary Liz. Knowing that the world won’t let somoene back in after they get lost is also pretty terrifying, think that’s what keeps lots of us on the straight and narrow rather than any super, shiny, golden goodness.

  3. I really enjoyed this one but I hope the style doesn’t overshadow the truth of it. I thought it was a brilliant way to tell Kyle’s story but the story itself is powerful. rockinlibrarian: This book has been well received by the Librarians I’ve met who have read it and if the endorsements on the cover are anything to judge by, it will be a hit.

  4. This sounds like an excellent read. Particularly given the fact that there is much talk about the style in which it’s written.

  5. rockinlibrarian, I think 2nd person is like (trying to think of good simile…), well, like a thing that can come across as gimmicky if not done well and used to add strength to the story. I hope it does well…. as long as 2nd person doesn’t become the next vampire!

    Jodie, interesting — how willing is the world to let someone back in? In YOU, part of the appeal of the “bad” kids is that they welcome.

    DogEar, I can see this one being on shortlists for the upcoming year.

    Michelle, I’ll be interested to hear what you think.


  1. […] Benoit is the author of You (Harper Teen, 2010). It is his debut young adult novel; his previous novels are adult mysteries: […]

  2. […] titles, Holtkamp and Lowe went beyond the “obvious” clean titles. For example, they included YOU by Charles Benoit. Yes, there are serious questions and themes, but it illustrates the consequences […]