by Andrew Keyser
“You Know Who You Are” is the epitome of coming-of-age stories. The book follows Jacob Vine, a middle school student just trying to survive adolescence. Jacob must cope with meeting and losing friends, trying to compete with a “perfect” older brother and dealing with the loss of a family member.
“You Know Who You Are” is author Ben Dolnick’s second book. Generally authors’ early novels are rough, but Dolnick’s book was a pleasant surprise. The novel had thoroughly developed characters with complex ideas woven around them.
Dolnick handles very sensitive issues such as death, with grace and simultaneously revealing the true nature of adolescence.
Other funny and quirky things happen at the perfect time to lighten otherwise somber moments. Jacob and his friend discover one day a dirty magazine in the house. They read through it, and soon are writing naughty stories of their own. One day Jacob’s friend’s mother discovers their stories, and the boys quickly blame each other and have a falling out, vowing to never speak to one another again. Soon though, they are back to being friends and closer than ever.
It is instances like these that make “You Know Who You Are” a book worth reading. The appeal is not limited to boys. There is an altruism throughout this book that would speak to men and women alike. Dolnick’s inclusion of both poignant memories and hilarious breaks makes “You Know Who You Are” a book everyone should read because there are parts each age group and gender can relate to.
Although the characters are engaging, the narrative seems to move slowly and not grip readers. I often found myself rereading the same paragraph three or four times because I couldn’t remember having just read anything. Unfortunately the high points of this story are found with the characters, and rarely anywhere else.