Two Minute Review: Dying To Know You by Aidan Chambers

Monday, April 23, 2012
Title: Dying To Know You
Genre: young-adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 288 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: April 1 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

In Dying to Know You, award-winning author Aidan Chambers has created an indelible portrait of a young man discovering his own voice in the world, and has constructed a love story that is as much about the mind as it is the heart.

In this contemporary love story, a teenage boy named Karl enlists a famous writer to help him impress his girlfriend, Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a letter in which he reveals his true self. But Karl isn’t convinced he’s good enough with words, so he tracks down Fiorella’s favorite author and begs him to take up the task. The writer reluctantly assents, on the condition that Karl agree to a series of interviews, so that the letter will be based on an authentic portrait of Karl. 
The letter, though effective, has unexpected consequences for Karl, Fiorella, and the writer.

This is short, sweet and pretty charming novel. There's a lot of heart and it's purely character-driven, with one notable exception. Dying to Know You also has the advantage of being very unique in several delightful ways - #1. It's from the wisdom-heavy perspective of a 75-year old man, which is not exactly your normal, every day YA character much less main character and sole narrator. While we the audience never learn the writer's name, his is the personality that charms and invites the reader to begin this story. #2. This is a very dialogue-driven novel. I noted that it is character-driven and by that I mean this is not a plot-driven, action-packed ride. It's slow and thoughtful, introspective and occasionally quite moving.

The writer is an appealing and distinct protagonist. His interactions with fellow main character Karl are as full as wisdom from experience as one would expect, but without any patronizing to deflect from their relationship of equals. Despite their vast age differences, personalities, and other disparities between them, Karl and the writer form a strong friendship that is the center of the novel and  the plot. As each helps the other, they individually start to heal - Karl from a trauma earlier in life and the writer from a more recent tragedy. This is a slower-moving novel due the hesitant and withdrawn nature of Karl and the trust being created between the two but reading Dying to Know You is a easily-finished, rewarding experience.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of audience this novel attracts. There certainly are the great things that set it apart, and overarching themes of friendship and grief sure to bring in many readers, and I hope they appreciate the finely tuned book Chambers has crafted. This a novel that started out strong and never lost my interest - I finished it in just about three hours - and one I recommend. 

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