Review: Dying to Know You

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dying to Know YouDying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
Published by Amulet Books on April 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Karl, aged seventeen, is hopelessly in love. But the object of his affections, Firella, demands proof, and poses him a series of questions regarding his attitude to the many sides of love. But Karl is dyslexic, and convinced that if Firella finds out, she will think he is stupid, and unworthy of her, and leave him.

So Karl asks a local writer to help him construct his replies - and an unlikely, but extremely touching, friendship develops between the two men. They both come to learn a great deal about about life from a very different perspective, and when an act of violence shatters their calm, they find their respective appraisal of life shifting in profound ways.

This is Aidan Chambers' Dying to Know You.

First Sentence: “‘Could I talk to you?'”

Dying to Know You is driven by the conversations between the characters, so it is a very brief read. From the beginning, though, it definitely captured my attention. Chambers does a lot of interesting things here, and, while very odd, I definitely wanted to see just where the story was going and how Chambers would get it there.

The only comparison I can come up with off the top of my head for a similar book is Adios, Nirvana. The style and mood of the two novels is quite disparate, but they both center around a young man learning from an old man. Through a series of interviews, the young men grow as individuals, overcome something with which they have been struggling.

I really respect Chambers for trying something different narratively from the usual YA fare. That said, Dying to Know You could be a tough sell, because it is just very much not like what I would have expected. For example, the book, though marketed to young adult readers, is told from the perspective of an old man, and not one looking back on his own life. There are several occasions where he describes his old man problems, rather than focusing on Karl. I think I would have preferred to see this done from multiple points of view, rather than just the writer’s.

Additionally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Chambers’ writing. The story is interesting and unique, but his simple prose did not appeal to me, nor did his characters. No one in this book seemed to brim with life particularly, which is really a shame. There were some nice quotes and I enjoyed the coverage of the book’s themes, but I just never felt invested. Also, I’ve never really been a huge fan of the novels that purport to be about real events; they generally turn out rather awkward.

You might like this book if you like sparse prose, a lot of dialogue and YA books with a unique perspective.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Sometimes the course of our lives depends on what we do or don’t do in a few seconds, a heartbeat, when we either seize the opportunity, or just miss it. Miss the moment and you never get a chance again.'”

2 responses to “Review: Dying to Know You”

  1. Christina Kit. says:

    I like different forms, ie epistolary, free verse, but I though it would be from the boy’s experience.

    I see why you’re iffy about it.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, in theory I approve, but it really just didn’t work for me. The book raised some good topics, but I just felt kind of meh about it in the end.

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