With or Without You
by Brian Farrey
Release Date: 5/24/2011
page count: 368
product description from goodreads.com
Eighteen year-old Evan and his best friend, Davis, get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik--whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.
Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan’s lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect.
With or Without You is, simply put, astounding. It tells the story of Evan, a gay teen who is trying to find where he fits in the world, while dealing with some very emotional and life-changing events.
From page one, Farrey's writing grips you like a tool shed vice, squeezing and squeezing on your emotional self until you reach the popping point. Beautiful prose is blended masterfully with realistic, almost four-dimensional characters that I desperately wanted to see rounding the corner in real life. Evan, the MC, reminded me so much of my younger self in that he is a "peacekeeper" of sorts, trying not to ruffle the delicate feathers of his perfectly-proportioned life (I was so like that when I was a teen!). But nothing can stay as is, Evan learns, and the two parallel paths of his life come crashing into each other in a beautiful and heartfelt and painful way that almost had me in tears. My heart was lunging page after page, anticipating/dreading what I just knew was coming. Farrey hooked me, no doubt about it.
With our Without You is also filled with an intense cast of supporting characters. From Shan, Evan's somewhat controlling sister, to Davis, his broken and mad-as-hell best friend, this book isn't wanting in the flawed character department. But the one who stole the show, in my opinion, is Erik, Evan's seemingly perfect boyfriend, who takes Evan on a journey of self-discovery that reminded me of a car accident on the freeway: you don't want to watch, but you just can't look away.
Many times throughout this book, I was scared for these two and their future. Evan's concealment of Erik from the rest of his family and friends blows up big time, and Erik doesn't take it lightly. And the drama and tension and conversations between these two is so realistic I felt like I was eavesdropping on their relationship. Well done, Mr. Farrey, well done.
Only because it's the highest number I use am I giving With or Without You 5 stars. But believe me, this book far surpasses that. If you're a fan of authentic, flawed, pained characters forced to make decisions that could potentially destroy the life they've built, then you need to read this book!