Choices and their consequences
“Another line crossed. And you didn’t even notice.” It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Maybe it’s Zack’s fault, or Kyle’s own fault, but that doesn’t matter now. He wonders, “When did it all go wrong?” The story opens with blood, and it ends with blood.
Choices made or not made have determined who 15-year-old Kyle Chase is and where he’s heading. He’s a slacker, a hoodie, at Midlands High. He could have studied harder in eighth grade and made it into a good school, but he chose to be “morphed” to his Xbox instead. He chooses to set a low bar for himself—missing assignments, failing tests, getting low grades. Friends go for math help; Kyle goes to detention. The theme of his school existence is “don’t get caught,” though he knows he’d be better off if he were caught sometimes; not getting caught leads to riskier choices.
His choices carry him into the orbit of bad boy Zack McDade. He didn’t have to go to that party, but walking up to Zack’s house and ringing the bell “changes things, crosses another line,” and it’s the relationship with Zack—who has been kicked out of Crestwood, a private school—that brings Kyle down.
Not many writers employ the second-person point of view, but in You, his first novel for teens, Charles Benoit uses it to great effect in allowing Kyle to explain his life; he doesn’t just narrate his story, he comments on it as he goes along his downward-spiraling path to his shattering fate. Often he sees his bad choices too late, and often readers will see more than Kyle sees, limited as he is in his own point of view. The voice is fresh and original, the prose simple, accessible and poetic. Think Cormier and Crutcher, think an edgier A Separate Peace or Catcher in the Rye, and you’ll get the significance of Benoit’s debut.