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Book Review: Between You and Me by Marisa Calin

You’re asking me to listen?
I can see your retaliation pressing to escape, and then:
You are so caught up in your own little world that you have no idea what’s going on with the rest of us.  Suddenly you want to talk to me, and I’m supposed to jump at the chance?  Well, sorry, I can’t be ready just because you are.  I have my own things to deal with but what would you know!
Bloomsbury August 2012
ISBN: 9781599907581

“The words ring painfully true; humiliation fills my chest.  The line between this exercise and life is way too blurred.  I stare at you.  Faltering, I find anger much easier to experience, and hear my defensive words cut through the silence.

Well, then I can’t image why you would want to be friends with me in the first place!
My voice cracks, making me sound less resilient than I’d hoped.  I swallow, and look at the floor.
Mia’s voice pulls me from the moment.  Not far enough.” – Marisa Calin

Told entirely in screenplay format, Between You & Me introduces readers to the life of Phyre (ME).  A 16 year old in love with the stage, Phyre (spoken as Fire) sees herself the star of everything- not only her life, but the life of her best friend, who is only referred to as You.  When the new drama teacher, Mia, graces the boards of Phyre’s play, Phyre finds herself completely crushing on the charismatic and beautiful new lead, placing You in the background.  Phyre pours over every gesture and word from Mia for hidden meanings to a possible relationship, and it’s almost too late when Phyre realizes that the person she should be interested in is a lot closer than her teacher.
What makes Between You & Me extremely interesting is that You, the best friend, is never reveled in their gender.  Readers can believe that You is female or male- there are no clues what-so-ever in the book.  Believe me, I looked for them.  There’s no mention of whether the hair is long or short, just that hands run through their hair.  Clothing is always ambiguous.  Gestures and mannerisms are ambiguous as well- the way You sits, the way they walk, the way You subtly courts Phyre could be read as either a female best friend or  a male best friend wanting more but afraid to test the boundaries, especially with Phyre’s unhealthy and stalker obsession with Mia.   It throws out the stereotypes of how to see a book, how to see a character, and how to see a relationship, which is really quite brilliant.  It makes a reader question how much a gender can influence your reading- teens may not phrase it that way, but that’s what they’ll come away with.
Personally, I love reading it with You as female.  To me, even with the references to Phyre’s boyfriends in the past and the light male flirting throughout the book, it reads to me that with the appearance of Mia, Phyre clicks onto the fact that love can come in any form, in any appearance.  With reading You as male, the only thing that makes the book unique by the end is that it’s told in screenplay format, and for me that doesn’t make the book special.  And when I read YA, I want special.  I want new and unique, and since Calin gives me the option, I’m making You female.
Between You & Me has a huge intensity and a drive in it that, while not action, certainly makes this book a ride.  I’d give Between You & Me to readers who devoured Rachel Cohn’s books like Very LeFreak and Naomi & Eli’s No Kiss List (co-written with David Levithan) ¸ Will Grayson, Will Grayson, or Louise Rennison’s books.

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