From The Booking Desk:
I don’t often cover older books here, because by nature, this blog is designed to highlight recent releases newly available to the reading public. But, since it is my blog, I do reserve the right to make exceptions. In this case, when I heard Charles Benoit speak recently at Bouchercon, I realized that his under-appreciated YA debut was a perfect fit for my blog readers and decided to give the book a much-deserved re-read. This mini-review is the result.
With his first young adult novel, YOU, Charles Benoit has made a credible case for the idea of setting a modern noir story within a high school setting. Noir fiction is closely related to the hard-boiled genre and often features a flawed “hero” who is at odds with society and its institutions. Benoit’s lead character, Kyle Chase, certainly fits that criterion.
Uniquely told in the second person, the narrative thrust of YOU requires the reader to relinquish control and simply follow the propulsive action to the inevitable climax. The short 223-page book practically demands to be consumed in one sitting.
By using the second person point of view, Benoit places the reader in the precarious position of relating directly to the main character – literally making the reader walk In Kyle’s footsteps. From the very first page of the story, it is clear there will be no happy ending, however. Through this single continuous, chapter-less story, readers will follow the destructive path on which Kyle is set, all the while wishing for any opportunity to change the foregone outcome.
This is not to say that young readers will not learn lessons from this tale of adolescence-run-amok. Much of Kyle’s dilemma is out of his hands, but he does make bad decisions along the way which only exacerbate the situation. Adult fans of noir will recognize this as a hallmark of the genre, but to the target audience this will read like everyday, normal, “being a teen” life.
YOU feels authentic in its presentation of a high-school boy caught up circumstances that quickly get out of hand and Benoit gives pitch-perfect dialogue to his youthful characters. It is a worth-while read for anyone who is interested in experimental storytelling, noir, and/or contemporary YA novels.