By Marisa Calin
Available now from Bloomsbury
Actress Marisa Calin's young adult debut is a fun, creative novel. BETWEEN YOU & ME is written in a hybrid screenplay/direct address format that expresses main character Phyre perfectly. She's an actress and someone who manages to be much more eloquent in her head than in real life. She analyzes her words deeply but rarely thinks about the things people say to her. Except for Mia.
Phyre is crushing hard on the new drama teacher, Mia. She tries to talk to her as much as possible, waiting in places she's seen her before, but often fails to say anything more than "Hi." If she does say more, it's a babbling mess. I loved that Phyre is never fazed that she's crushing on a woman. She doesn't ponder whether this means she's a lesbian or bisexual or any other sort of label. She's more confused by the depth and strength of her passion. It's obviously the first time she's truly been infatuated with someone.
(Also good: BETWEEN YOU & ME never goes for some sort of creepy Mia-likes-her-back or Mia-acknowledges-the-crush storyline. Mia acts professionally. Do not expect any sort of LOLITA action due to the heart-shaped sunglasses on the cover.)
Waiting in the wings is Mia's best friend, addressed only as you. Much like Steve Brezenoff's BROOKLYN, BURNING the gender of the significant other is never revealed. You clearly likes Mia, but never says it clearly enough to pierce Mia's crush bubble. I liked that you calls Mia out whenever she acts egregiously insensitive, but hoped Mia might call you out a few times. They're both guilty of communication issues. That's part of what makes the direct address so effective. It implies you and Mia have reached a point where they can talk about their feelings frankly. It gave me hope for their future as a couple and, more importantly, as friends.
BETWEEN YOU & ME is a terrific story about young love. It may depict the world a bit too rosily - Phyre is teased for liking a teacher, but not for liking a woman - but it still feels authentic. Phyre's voice is unique, but her story resonates because her confusion and longing and elation seem so familiar. Calin is an author to watch.