Published: April 2012
Publisher: Amulet Books
In this contemporary love story, a teenage boy named Karl enlists a famous writer to help him impress his girlfriend, Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a letter in which he reveals his true self. But Karl isn’t convinced he’s good enough with words, so he tracks down Fiorella’s favorite author and begs him to take up the task. The writer reluctantly assents, on the condition that Karl agree to a series of interviews, so that the letter will be based on an authentic portrait of Karl. The letter, though effective, has unexpected consequences for Karl, Fiorella, and the writer.
This was a very difficult book to rate and review, and even now I keep going back and forth between a 3 and a 5, so I've settled on giving it a 4.
There were parts of this book I absolutely loved. The relationship between Karl and the writer (who is never named) is so touching and felt believable. Both were in need of someone in their life to fill a gap left by the death of a loved one. This is the main focus of the book, so I feel Chambers accomplished this amazingly. There is a questioning about why they need each other, but by the end it was pretty obvious that not only had managed to fill an empty space inside of them, but they found something more as well. Chambers also does a nice job of dealing with the issue of Dyslexia (an issue close to my heart). He shows the struggles children with Dyslexia face not only as a side effect of their disability, but also due to the misunderstanding teachers, parents and the public have about it.
What makes me hesitate to give this the higher rating is that it's told from the point of view of the writer, who is an older gentleman in his seventies. We don't feel Karl's struggles and depression, because the old man doesn't feel them. He can remember and understand what Karl's going through but he looks at the situation through the eyes of experience. I was also very hesitant to rely on the writer and his relationship to Karl because of the title of the book. I definitely went in with the assumption that someone was going to die and I didn't want to start caring for a character that was going to kick the bucket.
While the fact that the book was narrated by an old man didn't automatically deter me from reading Dying to Know You, I do think it's a harder sell for a younger audience. There are going to be some YA readers who love it, some who don't mind and others that will hate it, but I for one am glad I read it. It's a beautiful story of friendship bridging the generation and education gap.