Dying to Know You

A Novel

From early reviews:

Booklist starred review April 15, 2012: After the expansive richness of his last novel, the masterful This Is All, Chambers has set himself a new challenge: to write a sparer novel but one that remains a rich experience for the reader. That he has succeeded will come as no surprise to his fans. Here's the story: one day a writer receives a visitor, a young man named Karl who asks for help in writing to his girlfriend. The boy explains that he is dyslexic, and so the (unnamed) author reluctantly agrees to help. In the process, he becomes involved in the young man's life and the young man in his. Then, the author decides he will write about the experience, and this novel is what he writes. Though ostensibly a work of nonfiction, the result is an exquisitely character-driven literary novel told in a variety of forms: unattributed dialogue, monologue, e-mail, and traditional narrative told in the 75-year-old author's first-person voice. Does this mean the novel is not young adult? By no means, for this is Karl's story and in it he comes vividly alive and as fully realized and multidimensional as the sculpture the 18-year-old ultimately creates and - appropriately - places in the author's garden. Deliberate in pace and carefully insightful in its investigation of character, Chambers' latest is a work of art that repays multiple readings. - Michael Cart.

The Kirkus Review: Will a story told in believable first-person voice by a 75-year-old man truly strike a chord with a teen audience? The answer is yes, though it may be a smallish one. Karl approaches the older man, an author, with a request. His new girlfriend, Fiorella, has tasked him with providing a series of written answers to questions she's composed so that she can find out more about him. But Karl, an 18-year-old plumber who's no longer in school, is dyslexic; answering the questions is beyond him. Seeing something of himself in Karl, the author reluctantly agrees to help, but acquiring a good understanding of Karl is hard. Only slowly recovering from grief over his father's death, the boy doesn't like to talk about himself. The friendship the two form as Karl gradually gains knowledge of himself that isn't based on the previous failures in his life is artfully, touchingly portrayed. It's filtered through the fictional author's aged point of view, which is punctuated with prostate issues and his own sorrow over the recent death of his wife. As Karl matures, the author also changes, finding a welcome release from his emotional pain. The storyteller's unique perspective ultimately enhances the tale but also skews it to a more sophisticated group of readers. This quietly understated performance captures the wistfulness of music in a minor key and is ultimately successful in its life-affirming message.

Publishers' Weekly starred review: Packed to the brim with challenging ideas, the latest from Chambers - winner of the Printz Award, Carnegie Medal, and Hans Christian Andersen Award, among others - is simultaneously an acutely observed (and surprising) love story; the chronicle of a young man coming into his own as an artist; and a slippery, twisting examination of the art of storytelling. Events kick off when an unnamed 75-year-old author opens his door to an uninvited guest: Karl, an 18-year-old apprentice plumber, who seeks help fulfilling his literary-minded girlfriend's demand that he write to her about his "inner secrets." For Karl, who is dyslexic and naturally reserved, this kind of writing is nearly impossible. For the namless author, the challenge enables him to reopen a part of his life he thought had closed forever. This organic yet intricately crafted story of self-discovery unfurls mainly through the elderly narrator's first-person account - which, admittedly, may not be an easy sell for teens - as well as e-mails and instant messages. For readers savvy enough to engage with it on its many levels, this is a generous gift.

Elizabeth Lumpkins in LumpLit.com This story hit me like a breath of fresh air right from the beginning. A stream of back and forth dialogue is used at the start of the book and is employed heavily throughout the novel. This approach made me feel immersed in the characters' worlds and minds. Karl, an 18-year-old British plumber, stops by the home of his girlfriend's favorite author. The girlfriend, Fiorella, wants Karl to write to her about his feelings and thoughts so they can get to know one another. Karl is dyslexic and has difficulty writing, but then he is not terribly verbose to begin with. He doesn't feel up to the task alone. So he asks the author, who is the narrator for this story, for help translating his thoughts into these letters. Over time, the aging author and Karl develop a close friendship. They help each other through difficult times. Karl's father passed away 6 years earlier, and the author's wife had died just a few years ago. These losses fuel much of the emotion of the story. There is such an honest, raw presentation of love, depression, death, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Dying to Know You is an emotional, character driven story both captivating and thought-provoking, reeling the reader in and taking hold. Highly recommended and best for older teens.

First published April 2012

In USA by Abrams Amulet Books.ISBN 978-1-4197-0165-8

In UK by Bodley Head Random House. EAN 9780370332369

All contents are ©Aidan Chambers unless otherwise stated.



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