Title: Between You & Me
Author: Marisa Calin
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Source/Format: ARCycling / ARC, 242 pages
Opening Sentence: “My bedroom. September. Evening.”
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Phyre knows there is something life-changing about her new drama teacher, Mia, from the moment they meet. As Phyre rehearses for the school play, she comes to realize that the unrequited feelings she has for Mia go deeper than she’s ever experienced. Especially with a teacher. Or a woman. All the while, Phyre’s best friend—addressed throughout the story in the second person, as “you”—stands by, ready to help Phyre make sense of her feelings. But just as Mia doesn’t understand what Phyre feels, Phyre can’t fathom the depth of her best friend’s feelings . . . until it’s almost too late for a happy ending. Characters come to life through the innovative screenplay format of this dazzling debut, and unanswered questions—is “you” male or female?—will have readers talking.
When I read that Between You & Me by Marisa Calin was written in a screenplay format I was equal parts intrigued and horrified. Once upon a time I was a cinematography major, so I’m well aware that screenplays are meant to be adapted, not read as a novel. Then I started reading the book and was equal parts peeved and grateful. Let me explain. Between You & Me is not a screenplay. I sort of don’t want to even say it’s written in screenplay format. I’ll settle with: Between You & Me is written in very broken screenplay format. That’s the part that peeves me. The gratefulness comes in because the changes made to the formatting of a traditional screenplay (for this novel) make it much easier to read (as a novel). So that’s the formatting, but there are bigger fish to fry.
Throughout the duration of the novel the main character’s (Phyre’s) best friend is referred to as “You”. The reader has no idea of gender or characteristics basically at all. Not knowing anything about that character is/was the most compelling aspect of the story. There was a lot left to individual interpretation when it came to “You” and I found the character’s gender was always changing in my mind depending on the small details we got in Phyre’s narration. I have an idea of what gender “You” is, but who am I to say? I would really love to have a chat with the author and find out for sure… but not knowing is definitely part of the fun and intrigue of the story.
Aside from the mystery of “You” I was a little bit underwhelmed with the plot. While I felt Phyre’s crush on Mia—her theater teacher—was very interesting, it was sort of dull. There was next to no action and most of what the audience read was Phyre longing for her teacher, who just so happened to be her first female crushee (You like that? Thought of it myself. Hah.) ever. Nothing was ever acted on or questioned at length and, really, I felt like nothing was going on in Phyre’s life. I did find one quote about Mia and Phyre’s relationship interesting, though. Phyre says: “I don’t know if I want to be her or kiss her but I know my heart is ready to explode.” I won’t elaborate on that because I feel like we’ve all probably admired or liked someone so much we just weren’t sure. (In my case it would be something like a “girl-crush” on another female. I don’t necessarily want to be romantic with them, but I love what they do or who they are as a person and probably look up to them. So much for not elaborating, right?)
As something of a side note: Phyre is the main character in a play Mia is directing at the high school. I found it quite interesting (but admittedly a little cliché) that the play parallels Phyre’s life. Honestly, I was looking forward to the play within the book more than I was the book itself. May I read more of that please? Thank you.
All in all I liked Between You & Me, but I’m nowhere near in love with it. I feel like the concept had a lot of potential but the execution felt a little forced and unfinished. The whole thing could have used a tad more work. I would have gladly read extra pages to have a better-rounded novel. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more by Marisa Calin. I think she has good stories to tell and I want to be there when she tells them.