Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: With Or Without You by Brian Farrey

Title: With Or Without You
Author: Brian Farrey
Reading Level: Older Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
ARC, 352 pages
Date Published: May 24, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
Eighteen year-old Evan and his best friend, Davis, get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik--whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.

Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan’s lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect.
With or Without You is a character-driven, harsh, stunning, but beautiful story about a young man caught between the two worlds he’s tried to keep separate.  The title actually sums up the book perfectly. Except not really, because Brian Farrey’s storytelling and character development are incredible. Evan, an 18 year old senior, has all the problems a guy his age should have, but then he has to contend with the gay-bashing he experiences on a regular basis. Because, yeah, he’s gay. But he’s not just gay. He’s an artist – painter – a best friend, a son, a brother, and a boyfriend. He’s all these things, but he still has no clue who he is.

He’s gay, but it’s only one aspect of who he is. Because throughout these few months in his life, Evan tries to contend with the two parts of his life – the part that is madly in love with a great guy named Erik, and the part that still hasn’t told anyone about Erik. He’s young, he’s scared of the love he doesn’t think can last, but he’s still this beyond-words caring person. Evan is one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever read. His emotions are raw and honest, and he felt as real to me as my own brother is.

Evan’s best friend Davis is everything Evan is not. He’s angry and bitter and willing to go to any length to fit in. He wants acceptance, while Evan just wants to get out. When Davis gets mixed up with Chasers, a group of gay young men who look at contracting HIV as a gift, Evan refuses to let him go. This aspect of the story, while integral and important, is not the driving force of the plot; Evan is. His painting – window panes are his canvas – is as important to the story as any other aspect. Evan’s relationships, with his parents, his sister, Davis (who is only his best friend), and with Erik evolve throughout the pages. He grows into a much stronger character by the end.

And every single character grows along with him. For better or worse, they develop, they grow, and by the end, they are different people; some only slightly, but others irrevocably altered.

With or Without You is a coming of age story, that just happens to have gay characters. Not once will it try to beat meaning into your head. It is what it is and each reader will come away with a different feeling by its close. But one thing is for sure, With or Without You is about finding out who you are, outside of the person people are telling you to be, and outside of the person you think you’re expected to be. It’s emotional and brutally honest, but the reality it represents is what will captivate readers, just as it did for me.

Opening lines: Chapter title – Rules
Hit the ground.
     Curl into a ball.
     Cover your head.
     Don’t cry. Ever.
~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages (I wanted to include all of them, but settled for this one):
“Why don’t you paint people?”
Explaining this has always been difficult.
“When you paint somebody,” I said slowly, “you suspend them in a single moment. I guess I’m waiting for the right moment. That defining instant that changes everything. So the image in the picture is the last time you’ll ever see that version of that person again.”
~ pg. 202
*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy  
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Brian Farrey online:

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Jessica (BookLover) said...

Great review! It sounds like this book deals with some tough issues.

BrittLit said...

I haven't really heard much about this book, but am always looking for new GBLT titles. I'm glad you love this one. Great review, I'll have to check this one out soon.

Stalking The Bookshelves said...

I just won a signed copy of this from a YA charity auction and its sounds so good! After reading your review it may have to move up in my to-read pile.

Chey said...

This book sounds incredible! Thank you for sharing. It's going on my wishlist. :)

Maya said...

Wow! What an emotional thrill ride! I can't wait to read this book! Great review. :)

Vivien said...

It's great to get an emotional read every now and then. Helps keeps things fresh.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

beautiful review. I really want to read this one. it sounds wonderful. i'm glad it's one of those novels that are MORE than just an lgbt book.


Candace said...

This book sounds INCREDIBLE! And it would work for the Diversity in YA Reading Challenge as well. It was totally not on my radar before but now I WANT!

winterbabe98 said...

Hi! I haven't read any GBLT books before, but do have a couple of male friends at work who are gay. The story sounded kind of sad to me!

Milayna_LoveJB said...

Gooood review.

Nicole said...

I have read books dealing with the same sort of thing before and really liked them, this sounds really great!

Laura said...

I'll add this to my TBR list

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Jessica - It is such a good book! It does deal with some tough issues, but handles it in very realistic and believable ways.

BrittLit - I'm always so bummed when books that I adored aren't getting too much publicity, so I'm happy I was able to let you know a bit more about this one.

Stalking the Bookshelves - Move it up! You won't regret it.

Chey - Yay!

Maya - I hope you get a chance to read it.

Vivien - I think emotional reads are the ones that keep me grounded, otherwise I'd probably be in fantastical worlds all the time. I enjoy a book that makes me look at the world I live in and see things I may have otherwise missed.

Shooting Stars Mag - Thank you so much :) With or Without You is way more than just an LGBT book too.

Candace - Your enthusiasm makes me really, really hope your ever-growing TBR pile allows you to pick this one up soon. And it would be perfect for the Diversity in YA challenge. I don't think it's on their list right now, so maybe I should email them and suggest they add it.

winterbabe98 - I haven't read too many LGBT books myself, but you don't need to know anyone LGBT in order to enjoy these books. Promise! The stories are just like any other, with fantastic characters and an interesting plot. With or Without You is a bit sad, but not overwhelmingly so. It's more hopeful (I think) than anything else.

Nicole - It is really great, so I hope you read it.

Laura - Woot woot for an add to the TBR list!

Hoot said...

I love the sound of this book. I can’t wait to read it.

Bere said...

Wonderful review, Nikki. With Or Without You sounds incredible. I just placed it on my Goodreads. This is the first time I read a review on it so I'm really excited to read it. Thanks, Nikki. Glad to hear you loved it! :]

~The Book Pixie said...

I feel really awful sometimes because while I do support gay rights, I haven't really read any true LGBT books. I know, it is a shame. I have been wanting to though and this one sounds like a great place to start. I'll definitely see about acquiring this one. Thanks for the review Nikki. :D


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