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.
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
A beautiful blend of light and emotional, and holding all the makings of true writing talent, With or Without You navigates a a coming of age story with a gay protagonist in a realistic, relatable, and easy manner. Evan is a fantastic central character, not defined by his sexual orientation and driving home the point of just how normal he is, and shines even amongst a cast of other dynamic, well defined characters. With a well paced, gritty, and thought provoking plot, and never shying away from the truth of things, With or Without You is a stunning debut.
The Extended Version:
Evan is an easy character to like, and one who stresses about some things while has the ability to let other things roll right off his back without issue in a way that gives readers a true sense of who he really is. Torn between his best friend and the boyfriend he's kept a secret, he toes the line between truth and secrets, love and loyalty, in a way that any reader, gay or straight, can relate to and enjoy. From his artistic abilities to the compassion that seeps from him, Evan is very mutlifaceted, and most notably, his sexuality is simply another aspect of him. It doesn't define him any more than being a boy does, nor is it something that he constantly focuses on and harps on, leaving him relatable to even female and straight readers.
Erik, his boyfriend, is near perfect, and pitched in a way where even his flaws simply add to that perfection. He and Evan truly make a good couple, bettering each other and leaning on each other. Some of the most poignant, tender scenes in the book are between these two, and though they certainly face their set of issues, they have a strength that plays off each other that helps define both their personalities and their relationship. In love with Evan, and forgiving of many things, Erik also is not a complete door mat or willing to let Evan hold all the cards, making not only his character stand out but forcing Evan to face things he might not want to.
Davis, Evan's best friend, is a striking character, one who's motivations and psychology come through strongly, even if it puts him in a negative light. The reasons he's going down the path he is are clear, understandable, and even heartbreaking, and add in a realism that will gut readers at times. The growing tension between Davis and Evan push the plot at a rapid pace at times, and are handled in a way that shows every aspect without only relying on the differences between them to drive things.
The plot is a fantastic one, bringing in new concepts and elements not seen in other books and weaving them in perfectly. Never focusing simply on a coming out type of gay story, and not even particularly "gay angsty" in the usual sense of it, Farrey has brought to light not only problems and issues gay teens are forced to endure but also the options, however beneficial or not, they are presented with. From influences of new characters to the rights and wrongs, so to speak, of being gay, this book thrusts the reader deep into the heart of things without being preachy, cliche, or unsympathetic. Even a range of views on being gay are incorporated, yet the focus of the book remains on Evan throughout. From his love of Erik to his loyalty to his best friend, he endures plenty of things most every teen and even adults has or will, and is tested and tried in ways that push his own boundaries.
Farrey's writing is bold and talented, giving a strong and very realistic to Evan. Though male POV, this book isn't particularly vulgar simply because of that, giving it a connection for a female readership. With emotions infused into so many of the pages, and some incredibly wrenching scenes scattered throughout, Farrey has proven his ability to be a mutlifaceted writer. Mixing in lighter, fun, and sweet scenes, and also adding in a heavy focus on Evan's art and pitching it in a unique way, the writing pulls readers in as much as Evan's character and the story.
This is a book that will make readers think, likely for the better, and that isn't using gay characters just to try to be edgy. The realism stands out, and the fact that being gay doesn't define a single one of these characters makes everything shine more. Though some scenes hold some rough elements, the book overall is not graphic, handling the truth in things in a sympathetic manner yet never shying away. Resonating and memorable even after the last page, and ending in a very fitting place for the book's events. With or Without You is a must read by all.
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 24, 2011