Word Spelunking

Between You & Me - Marisa Calin Marisa Calin’s Between You & Me employs an unusual format to portray a relatable and contemporary glimpse into the complicated, confusing and often heartbreaking world of falling in love and growing up.Written in screenplay format, Between You & Me follows sixteen year old Phyre as she grapples with her confusing and burgeoning romantic feelings for Mia, the new and young theater and film teacher. Phyre has never felt attracted to another girl before and her strong feelings for Mia have her questioning everything. Phyre eventually confides in her BFF, who is only referred to as YOU and whose gender is never specified, but he/she is dealing with their own secret romantic feelings; feelings for Phyre. Phyre hopes to get closer to Mia by starring in the school play, but only further complicates things. Life changing and heart-breaking realizations hit hard, but maybe Phyre and YOU can still have a happily ever after.Calin has crafted an authentic, hip and relatable look at sexuality, love and growing up. Full of palpable emotions, engaging characters and a thought-provoking story, Between You & Me is a captivating contemporary read.The screenplay format is innovative and creates a very cinematic experience. Unfortunately, the narration often switches from this screenplay format to longer prose and I found this switch jarring and confusing. There’s also no use of quotation marks to signify dialogue, so I was often confused as to just who was talking and when the dialogue stopped and Phyre was merely narrating her own thoughts and observations. I think if a distinction between dialogue and narration and who’s talking were made clearer then the screenplay format would work better.The story itself however is enthralling and easily pulled me in. Phyre’s complicated and often painful exploration of her confusing feelings for Mia and YOU’s own feelings for Phyre are well-crafted and presented in a very unassuming, honest and relatable way. This isn’t a “coming out” novel and, even though Calin does a great job of exploring the notion of one questioning their sexuality in a thoughtful way, at its core this is a story simply about love and all the heartache, wonderment, excitement and confusion that comes with it. The real focus and important aspect of this novel isn’t that Phyre falls for a girl, it’s the simple and relatable notion that she falls hard for someone who intrigues, captivates, challenges and attracts her, someone who will never return those intense feelings.I love that Phyre’s best friend and admirer’s gender is never revealed and YOU can easily be read as either a boy or girl. When I first began the novel I actually wanted YOU to be a girl, and there were many times when I was sure YOU was a girl, but then something would happen or something was said I was sure YOU was a guy. But as the story progressed I realized it didn’t matter and stopped focusing on YOU’s gender and just focused on his/her feelings and friendship with Phyre, which I think is the whole point. Calin has created something very profound and exquisite with her un-gendered YOU.The story wraps up in a way that is kind of predictable and expected, but not unsatisfying. I think this is one instance where the journey the characters take is far more important than the destination they reach…and the journey is a tantalizing and tangible one.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: While the unusual, yet refreshing screenplay format used does cause a few glitches and distractions, the candid, emotionally palpable and smartly crafted story of two teens discovering the complexities of falling in love certainly make up for them. Between You & Me is a fresh, relatable and worthwhile read.

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