Book Review: The You I See
Reviewed by Manik Chaturmutha
A life-affirming coming of age story that enhances the nuances of growing up and embracing one’s sexuality
Danny Freeman’s The You I See is a continuously hopeful story of friendship, young love, and the celebration of sexuality. Set in Houston in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the novel discusses LGBTQ+ themes in a profoundly homophobic setting.
Alex was never meant to meet Brandon. Standing across from the boisterous and loud boy putting jelly on the sandwiches intended for charity, Alex never thought that they would become friends. But fate has other plans. Instead, the two begin an endearing relationship that runs deeper than blood. The story stretches over six years of Alex Kennedy and Brandon Marshall’s teenage years.
There is an inexplicable attraction between Brandon and Alex. But having had little experience of love in their life, the two young teenagers are left confused about their feelings for each other. They must now unravel their confusing feelings of attraction and come to terms with their sexuality, something that is deemed a sin in the eyes of their God. Wading through their teenage years, Alex and Brandon protect their relationship and their budding love from the wrath of a homophobic society.
Readers of The You I See get a front row seat to their evolving friendship and budding romance. Freeman embeds the story with facts from the 1980s, giving the story a good historical feel. He does a great job of discussing the homophobic concepts preached in the name of Christianity to influence young minds, and he writes the transition from friendship to love with great flair.
Freeman’s writing style is commendable. He has intricately embedded the story in history and portrayed well the ways in which the Church and its teachings provide a setback for Alex and Brandon’s young love.
Some aspects of the story do not sit well however. The characters can feel shallow; there are many instances where the two protagonists objectify each other’s bodies, hinting that they are attracted to each other just for their great looks. There is a lack of depth in their personalities, and they occasionally act beyond their age. While Freeman successfully sets this love story in its historical and problematic society, he may not be giving the same attention to building out his characters.
Irrespective of the shortcomings, I would recommend The You I See. It is a funny, life-affirming, and hopeful coming of age story about young love and embracing your sexuality in a society that deems it a sin. It may be funny, but it also hits on a number of emotional moments. It is immensely uplifting in this way. This would be a great choice for readers confused about their sexuality or those who find it difficult to accept it.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / LGBTQ
Print Length: 402 pages
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