Take Me With You When You Go
David Levithan and Jennifer Niven
Review: Karen Watkins
How do two authors write a book together? Do they share the characters? Do they have a basic idea for a story and see where it leads?
Whatever the case may be, Levithan and Niven have done a good job with this story, which is suitable for young adults and older.
The story is told through emails, mostly between Bea, 18, and Ezra, 14.
Through these emails we learn that Bea has run away from their Indiana hometown and gone to St Louis, leaving Ezra behind with abusive stepfather Darren.
Ezra goes in search of signs from Bea and finds that she has taken his money, not for the first time, and left behind an email address hidden somewhere only he would find it.
As the layers of the story peel away we learn that the siblings have endured verbal and physical abuse and have been hurt and belittled by Darren for many years. And their mom shows little love or empathy for her children.
The emails expose the siblings’ fears and the damage done to them. Among them is an incident where Darren pulls out a gun in a crowded movie theatre.
In another he beats Ezra in front of onlookers.
Ezra and Bea are not the only ones. Ezra’s friend Jessica identifies with him because her father is a “raging alcoholic” and her brother broke her jaw. The story emphasises that many children hide family dysfunction.
As things unravel at home for Ezra and he takes drastic action, Bea confronts secrets from their past.
Digging deeply into their family history, she finds stuff that will forever change the way they think about their family.
Bea is an especially memorable character − naive and self-aware, callous and yet compassionate. Ezra is withdrawn but gradually opens up as he struggles to leave his parents and be honest with his boyfriend Terrence, who is black.
There is some strong language and mild sexual situations but there is no graphic detail.
This story might sound like big-time angst but there are humour, warmth and inspiring moments as they find themselves, and each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it for any age. It includes a list of resources for those struggling with abuse.
Levithan is known for 19 Love Songs and Niven for Breathless.