April 10, 2017

Me (and) Me

Written by Alice Kuipers
HarperCollins Canada
288 pp.
Ages 14+
April 2017

Lark Hardy’s seventeenth birthday should’ve been a fun day, and it had begun that way, a first date with Alec Sandcross canoeing at Pike Lake.  But one moment changes everything.  As the teens are about to embark on some swimming, a cry from Suzanne Fields, the mother of five-year-old Annabelle whom Lark had babysat, draws their attention to the child face down in the water. Alec dives in but hits his head and starts going down.  And as Suzanne yells at Lark to do something, the teen hesitates, not knowing whom to save.  So begins a novel split in two voices, both Larks and both Lark’s.

The first Lark begins to describe the days after the near drowning in which Alec has been saved and Annabelle lays in a hospital bed in a coma. Alec and Lark’s new relationship is blossoming, and he begins to teach her how to do parkour, climbing, running and jumping across obstacles such as buildings and bridges. Becoming so entwined with the attentive and charismatic Alec, Lark starts blowing off best friend Lucy and bandmates Nifty, Reid and Iona to spend time with Alec.  When she starts getting weird messages on her phone about Alec not being saved, Lark is disconcerted but has no answers. But when she visits Annabelle in the hospital, and hallucinates that she’s drowning in water and then glimpses a girl who is but isn’t her, Lark starts to think she’s going crazy.

In an alternate voice and chapters, a second Lark, one who cuts her hair short and dyes it red, recounts those same days, but ones in which music exec Martin Fields and wife Suzanne are ever grateful to her for saving their young daughter while Alec’s family sits by his hospital bedside, contemplating turning off the machines that are keeping him alive.  Lark still harbours much anger about her mother’s passing and translates that anger into petty shoplifting of items she doesn’t even want.  But though this Lark is starting to connect with bandmate Reid, she too is baffled by freaky messages including those of a not-hospital bound Alec and an intimate relationship with him.

Lark, whether the long- and dark-haired one or she of the red hair, have similar circumstances: a musical mother who has passed; a dad with heart issues; best friend Lucy; a passion for writing songs; and playing with bandmates Reid, Iona and Nifty.  She is also starting to suspect she’s losing it, seeing things like imaginary water near drowning her and disappearing messages.

The linchpin for Lark becomes the lyrics her mother started penning before her death.
Perhaps you see it differently
You and me
It’s just a case of who tells the story
Perhaps you see it differently.
(pg. 86)
Showering her intense text with astounding lyrics, Alice Kuipers  brings both Larks together to juxtapose the parallel lives they lead after the near drowning at the lake.  Confused by grief, fears and even guilt, both girls (or are they really two?) attempt to make sense of a world in which their own choices for actions have consequences that they wish they could undo.  They are two halves of the same whole, different but similar. They are Me (and) Me.  (There’s even a crazy moment when the two face off and shout, “Who even are you?” “Who the hell are you?”; pg. 240) It’s hard to say whether the two will come together equally, though Lark recognizes that,
I have to stitch myself back together.  I have to make myself whole. (pg. 270)
or whether Lark will become more of one than the other.  However, it’s clear that Alice Kuipers in her daring storytelling and almost maternal concern for her characters wants to help keep Lark together. Life is hard enough without questioning your decisions, especially those made under pressure, and when literally being torn apart by them.  I can’t tell you how it ends (you’ll see when you read Me (and) Me) but I can tell you that the story comes full circle, secured in its own way, though not tied up as you might expect.

Check back tomorrow for my Me (and) Me blog tour stop with a guest post by author Alice Kuipers.  Ever enlightening, Alice Kuipers speaks about why she writes YA.

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