Author: Abigail de Niverville
Publisher: NineStar Press
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Publication date: April 15, 2019
Length: 69600 words
Reviewed by Sammy
In his senior year of high school, Julian has one goal: be invisible. All he wants is to study hard, play basketball, and pretend he’s straight for one more year. Then, he can run away to university and finally tell the world he’s bisexual. And by “the world,” he means everyone but his mom and best friend. That’s two conversations he never wants to have.
When he’s talked into auditioning for the school’s production of Hamlet, Julian fears that veering off course will lead to assumptions he’s not ready to face. Despite that, he can’t help but feel a connection to this play. His absent father haunts him like a ghost, his ex is being difficult, and he’s overthinking everything. It’s driving him crazy.
The decision to audition leads Julian on an entirely different path. He’s cast as Hamlet, and the boy playing Horatio is unlike anyone Julian has met before. Mysterious and flirtatious, Sky draws Julian in, even though he fears his feelings at the same time. As the two grow closer, Julian begins to let out the secrets he’s never told—the ones that have paralyzed him for years. But what will he do if Sky feels the same way?
Julian has a secret—one that he is sure will change not only how his friends view him but perhaps alienate his only parent as well. But drunken kisses with boys has ceased to be enough for the high school senior even though he is determined to hide his sexuality until he leaves for college next year. After breaking up for the final time with the girl he has been lying to for far too long, Julian determines to hide, particularly when his best friend who is gay and out proclaims that there is no such thing as a bisexual but merely someone who is actually gay and denying the truth. Then Skye and his sister, Ruth, transfer into Julian’s school and every thought of waiting to reveal he is bi is thrown out the window. Despite his fears, Julian decides to trust Skye with his secret and it is the best decision he has ever made.
Abigail de Niverville has released what I consider to be a very important YA novel entitled, I Knew Him. The story touches on a real dilemma in the LGBTQIA community today—the idea that those who “claim” to be bisexual are only gays not willing to admit the truth to themselves and the world. This novel not only dispels that myth but underscores how damaging such mis-beliefs are to those who are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
With Julian we explore the perspective of a young man who knows he is bisexual but who is terrified to tell his friends or mother. He worries they will either turn away from him or, in his best friend Will’s case, accuse him of lying to himself. To make things worse, Julian’s parents are divorced and he misses his dad who has been largely absent from his life for the past two years. Revelations about his dad’s current relationship status will prove to be reassuring to Julian but even though that is the case Julian is still on his own when it comes to who and how he will share his truth. Despite eventually reigniting his relationship with his dad, Julian still feels profoundly alone and longs for the day he can leave town, attend college and be himself. His plan is to stay in the shadows, never telling anyone he is bi—until Skye rolls into town and Julian feels an attraction that is stronger than the fear that has ruled his life for so long.
I Knew Him is a profound journey of self-discovery, coming out, first love and so much more. It is a celebration of the joy one can experience when they make the decision to stop letting fear rule their life and proudly state who they are. It is a testament to the strength and courage that love can give us when we decide to no longer hide our true selves from the world. I truly enjoyed this novel—it was well-written with fascinating characters who interacted in a realistic way. The author made sure that there were no easy fixes to the decision facing Julian but did give him a small safety net of friends who never turned their back on him. This story and Julian, in particular, burrowed into my heart—leaving a lasting impression. I highly recommend it to you.
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