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With or Without You Paperback – May 24, 2011
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
With Or Without You
Hit the ground.
Curl into a ball.
Cover your head.
Don’t cry. Ever.
All this I know. It is instinct, as automatic as any breath, any blink, any beat of the heart. I repeat eighteen years’ worth of these hard-learned lessons over and over in my head, waiting for the hail of blows to stop.
I worry it won’t be enough.
Over the war cries and laughs from above, I hear a whimper. It’s Davis. He’s nearby and while I can’t see him, I know he’s gone fetal, mirroring my position on the ground. I’m still, silent. I offer no sport. But Davis just made a mistake. His groan earns him the undivided attention of our attackers. I venture one impossibly short glance out between my elbows. Four different pairs of feet launch into a vicious, steel-toed assault on my best friend.
“You got something to say, faggot?”
Pete Isaacson, of course. I dare another look and see five of them total. The usual suspects. Pete’s mob from the wrestling team: the troglodytes. Pete lords over them all in his trademark bowling shoes, burnished emerald and ochre. Two glints of gun-metal silver, dog tags on a chain around his neck, shoot the sun’s reflection like a laser. He’s grinning. “Come on, faggot. Lemme hear you howl.”
When Davis doesn’t answer, Pete stomps on Davis’s hip, eliciting a scream. I’m too sore to take in a breath. I can only send silent pleas to Davis: Shut up, shut up, shut up. Davis sobs. The savage blows pitch his short, skinny body this way and that.
Don’t cry. Ever.
I’ve never cried during a beating. I used to think that I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they’d hurt me. The real reason? Crying solves nothing. I only do things that make a difference. Like now. When I summon the strength to cough.
The effect is instantaneous. Three of the trogs break off and renew their assault on me. One of them falls to his knees, pummeling the side of my head and my right arm with his fists. A year and a half ago, Kenny Dugan broke that arm when he slammed me into a locker. That might be him now, trying to recapture the glory. So, I do all I can do. I take a diversion.
LOCAL TEEN DEAD IN
Madison, Wis.—Authorities are questioning five local wrestlers in the death of Evan Weiss, a senior at Monona High School. Just one day before all six were set to graduate, the students are facing charges of first-degree murder in what authorities are describing as a clear case of gay bashing.
Weiss and his best friend, Davis Grayson, were walking home after the last day of school when the suspects allegedly jumped the pair in a field behind the school and beat them.
Grayson remains hospitalized in critical care.
Perhaps most tragic is that Weiss died mere blocks from the state capitol, where Governor Doyle Petersen is days away from signing major hate-crime legislation into law.
When asked to comment on the incident, Governor Petersen said, “It’s difficult to comment without all the facts. But once these boys are found guilty, I plan to lobby for the death penalty and see those little fuckers fry.”
My self-inflicted fantasy does the trick and carries me away into unconsciousness. I don’t know how much later it is when I feel someone gently prodding my chest. I move and my body explodes. A discharge of pain from my shoulder leaves my right arm flaccid. I wail and pull it to my chest.
I look up at Davis. His left eye is swollen; it’ll be completely shut by morning. His sandy blond hair juts out in every direction, decorated with grass clippings. Dark streaks crisscross his face like war paint and, with the sun disappearing behind trees and houses, shadow and blood fuse into one.
“A car drove by and they freaked.” His whisper is like grinding glass. “You were out. I didn’t know what to do.”
He holds out his hand to help me up but I shrink away, keeping my right arm against my chest. He sees this.
“Is it broken?”
I vividly remember what it felt like when Kenny broke it—a river of knives flowing up to my shoulder—and this does not feel like that. I shake my head and, using my good arm, push off the ground. We stand facing each other for a moment, each fading into a silhouette. We limp back to my house.
Top customer reviews
Davis was by far the more emotionally complex character. Evan had a sister, and even though his parents were distant,
they were still there for him. Davis, on the other hand, had a much more difficult home life. An institutionalized mother, an uncaring father, and no siblings for support. His small size made him a target for bullies throughout his life. I would love to see Mr. Farrey write a sequel from the POV of Davis, up to and including the timeframe of this book. This was done clearly so well in the two books "Something Like Summer," and "Something Like Winter," by Jell Bell (two of my all-time favorites). I would love to see this story through the thoughts and eyes of Davis. On a side note, I did not like that Evan "abandoned" Davis at the end of the book (so much for BFF), especially given the secrets Evan had been keeping from Davis. Not only could a sequel (same timeframe) address so much, it could also extend the story. And while the story is good (thus my 5-star rating), I still would like to see an HEA with Davis somehow included. Please Mr. Farrey, give this consideration. If a sequel were written as well as this book, they would be timeless classics.
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is a book with gay characters, not about them.
High school seniors Evan and Davis are sick of being bullied for no other reason than the fact that they're gay. So when school lets out and they meet Sable, a weird/interesting/mysterious gay dude with a hidden agenda, they're easily pulled into the Chasers, a group that celebrates homosexuality. With each meeting, Davis is sucked farther in to the group, and when it gets dangerous, Evan must decide between saving his best friend and following his heart.
There are a billion things I love about this book, but I'll try to only name a few.
The protagonist, Evan, is probably my favorite main character of 2011. He's so insanely relatable, and just straight-up real. Evan is the character that everyone will love and want to be IRL friends with. He doesn't have the snarky, whiny, depressed attitude. When you think of him, you don't say, "Oh, Evan? That gay character in W/ OR W/OUT YOU?" Because his sexuality is the least interesting thing about him. He paints, using windows as his canvas.
Brian Farrey writes about lots of different relationships in WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, but there are two that really take lead: Evan and Davis's, and Evan and Erik's. I love that the relationship between Evan and Davis stayed at the friend-level. There was nothing romantic between them, and that made the story even more real. You don't know how many times I chill with one of my gay friends and someone asks if we're dating. That bothers the $#&% out of me, when people assume that just because two people are gay they're automatically in love and dating. I was beyond thrilled to see this in WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.
I think I mentioned this before, but Evan is a painter. But not your typical, average painter--he creates his art on windows. Glass is his medium. I don't want to give too much away, but Evan's problem is this: his art, while refreshing and beautiful, is completely unoriginal. He has no unique style. No identity. Instead, he mocks other artists. The book is a lot about relationships and balance, but it's also about self-discovery. From the beginning to the end, we see a change in Evan, through his artwork. It's like, as he learns more about the person that he is, he also learns about the artist he wants to be. This is what made WITH OR WITHOUT YOU brilliant.
And, of course, Mr. Farrey's writing just made the story shine.
This is a book you definitely want to read.
There are a lot of books with gay protagonists where the focus is that he's gay. But in With or Without You - that's not an issue. It causes several beatings from high school bullies, but for the most part, it's known and accepted by the people who surround the protagonist, Evan. So that's definitely one refreshing change about With or Without You.
I loved the characters in general - I loved Evan and his passion for art. The things that he was described as created with the glass sounded absolutely stunning. I loved the internal battle between his love for his boyfriend, Erik, and his loyalty to his best friend, Davis. I loved Davis and felt for him, despite the stupid decisions he made throughout the book. And Erik - sweet, caring, Erik. Seriously, Erik has to be one of the best boyfriends I've ever encountered in the literary world.
The storyline broke my heart. Like any good story should, it started out with the simple questions of where to go to college, when to tell my parents about my boyfriend, etc. and quickly escalated to the point of all hell breaking lose.
With or Without You held my attention and broke my heart, and ended beautifully.
Most recent customer reviews
The story follows our main character, Evan, who's eighteen and is just about to graduate high...Read more