[GUEST POST] I Hate Everyone But You - Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn

Today I have the pleasure of providing you all with a guest post from a good friend, Keith Reynolds. We have some similar ideas about books, and other times our ideas are pretty polarized. In any case, I respect his opinion, and I hope you all enjoy reading his review of this novel!

[Note: These views are those of the guest reviewer and are not necessarily my own]

If you’ve ever had a piece of candy and later found out it was good for you? No because something like that doesn’t exist? Well you’re right, but if it existed, I Hate Everyone But You, would be the book equivalent. This is a strained metaphor to be sure, but just go with it.

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Ava Helmer (that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We're still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

As is my way, I didn’t like the format at first. It seemed like too much like a tiresome conversation I would have with friends when bored in my early university days. More than once, I was projecting my disdain for badly written and contrived early University tropes onto the books more than I was allowing myself to enjoy the prose. However, it didn’t take long at all for me to get over this self-loathing reproach because the voices of the two protagonists shone through.

I could tell even without the telltale email or contact name who was speaking. I could hear the distinct characters through even the briefest exchanges. I don’t know if the authors each wrote one of the points-of-view but if they didn’t they are a extremely talented duo.

Each of them were compelling stories wound together by an old friendship. Ava, alone for the first time in years without her bestie Gen, is struggling with her social anxiety. She doesn’t know how to navigate this new environment. Perhaps its just society’s predilection to ignore mental illness, but the effort to show her struggle really paid off in this book. It was consistent and enhanced, rather than detracted from, the plot. I empathized with Ava as she made up a pretext for spending time with a boy she met through a sorority event that she didn’t want to go to which ended up biting her in the ass to hilarious effect.

Meanwhile in Boston, Gen is on a sexual walkabout. She hooks up with a number of people whose interconnected sexual and personal relationships weave a complicated tapestry. It doesn’t always read as a healthy experience because of the lens that Ava puts on it, but the complications from sex and drug use are tempered by Gen’s cooler head. She explains to her anxious friend that she can have sex with other people without needing to label her relationships or sexuality. It’s a satisfying journey that brings Ava, and readers, along. It offers some small teachable moments about people’s anxiety around sex, gender, and orientation without being heavy-handed.

It was all very charming and the beats of the story told in this format worked quite well. The moments where one POV was unavailable/drunk/asleep and the other was panicking were perfectly placed to ramp up the tension. Meanwhile the longer narrative or reconciliatory emails balanced the prose. I Hate Everyone But You is a delight to read full of genuine friendly teasing that you can also probably find in texts to friends.

Keith Reynolds is a social media consultant and writer based out of Vancouver. Follow him on twitter: twitter.com/slothra or check out his personal website: http://keithreynolds.ca/


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