Every You, Every Me
by David Levithan
Photography by Jonathan Farmer
Published: 13th September 2011
In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he’s been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan’s starting to believe it’s Ariel that’s behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.
As many of you know, I consider David Levithan to be one of my favourite authors. With that in mind, I’d been slowly collecting and reading his body of work – which I might add, is absolutely massive. He has written or co-written at least 21 novels that I’m aware of! Every You, Every Me was a novel that definitely interested me because the premise was striking and unlike anything I’d read before. I chose this book to try and pull me out of a mild reading slump that I was experiencing, and it certainly did the trick.
From the blurb you can see that this novel follows a character named Evan who receives mysterious photographs from an unknown source. A few months prior he lost his best friend, Ariel – and the photographs are stirring up a lot of the dark emotions surrounding that. When I went into this novel, this is what gripped me – the intrigue. I was desperate to find out what on earth was going on.
My initial reaction was disappointment, I’m very sad to say I almost gave up on it. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a shorter novel, maybe I would have. However, in hindsight I’m very glad I didn’t because I ended up really enjoying it. I suppose you could say it’s a slow burner, for a few reasons and I’ll go into them with you now.
Throughout the novel, we’re reading from a perspective that the protagonist is speaking directly to us. They’re breaking the forth wall, but in a way that makes you a part of the story. ‘It was your birthday.’ At first I wasn’t sure about this because of the way in which the book is written, but I felt it ended up working quite brilliantly. A vast percentage of the novel is actually written with a strike through it. These represent what the character wants to say, but they’ve almost edited it out. This was really frustrating at first because I didn’t have a feel for the character and it came across as angsty. The character did seem pretty two-dimensional at the beginning but as I read further, I felt the writing techniques actually strengthened the novel and the characterisation.
This novel features quite a few photographs as you can imagine. Instead of the image being presented through language, we get to see the actual piece. I love that we can physically see the images at the same time as the character. I’ve not really read anything (that springs to mind) that has done this before, and it’s a very effective technique. It pulls the reader in and makes you feel like you’re in their world. The photographs are incredibly chilling, and some really freaked me out – to the point I went and grabbed my cat to sit with. I loved that though – and it really set the tone for the piece.
Overall, this is a slow burner that I’m glad I stuck with. Levithan produced a very chilling, psychological thriller that drew me in and pulled me out of my reading slump. The uses of photographs in this piece were perfect, making it something quite unique for me. Levithan’s use of language on the page, taking it away from the traditional prose, made this novel a stand out from those I’ve read already.
I’d recommend this book. It’s a great example of Levithan’s talents. A haunting novel.