Rated Reads

Dying to Know You

by Aidan Chambers

Rated: Moderate

Eighteen-year-old Karl is desperate. His well-read and privileged girlfriend wants him to write out his answers to a number of questions so she can get to know him better, deep down. She feels that’s the best way for her to really see inside his soul. Unfortunately, he has dyslexia and is not much with words, spoken or written. So he approaches an author Fiorella admires and asks for his help.

This 70-something man isn’t sure the idea is a good one, but he is intrigued and impressed by Karl and finds himself saying yes. The two spend time together and talk about life and what Karl thinks and likes so the author can somehow put Karl’s own thoughts and feelings into words that reflect him accurately.

Despite the fact that we never really know the novelist’s name, the book is just as much about him as it is about Karl. In fact, it is told in first person from his point of view, and he talks a lot about his aches and pains, his prostate troubles, and so on. We get to know a fair amount about him even as he talks about Karl and the friendship that develops between the two very different men. It is for this reason I’m not sure why this book is classified as young adult. I don’t know how many teenagers would care to read about an “old man.” But the novel is charming because of the lovely friendship that it portrays and the simple way in which it is told. Karl and the author both have grief to work through, among other problems, and they are able to help each other, even “save” the other. The book becomes much more about them than it is about what Karl wants to say to Fiorella. I found it to be sweet and touching, and I cared about both our main characters and what happened to them by the end of the story.

Rated: Moderate, for teen readers, because of teen sex. There are no details about it at all, but it happens and is talked about a little bit. There are also a few occasions of some crude language. I’d pretty much just say it’s mild for adult readers, however.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Dying to Know You
  • by Aidan Chambers
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: