Book Reviews

Book Review: Somebody That I Used to Know by Dana L. Davis

I received this book as an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Young adult books can be a challenge to review. I’m not the author’s intended audience. While I have fun skewering the Nancy Drew series, there’s a point where you have to look at things from the perspective of the child who read it all those years ago. Which is why I can say that although there was a lot in Somebody That I Used To Know that I thought was implausible, I can also see why young adults who read it would love it.

Dylan Woods is in many ways a typical teenager, and at the same time, unique. She is an African-American girl who was adopted by a white family in Middle America. She has exceptional violin talent and has designs on studying at Julliard after high school. However, her drive to achieve this has overshadowed many other areas of her life.

When she was adopted, her mother turned to a lifelong friend for help with things like her hair. A bond formed between Dylan and the woman and her son, Langston. After they moved to Los Angeles, Dylan didn’t hear from Langston again, despite the fact that they had been close friends. The next time she saw him, he was riding high in a famous boy band, then launched a solo career. He’s regarded as one of the top R&B artists at the ripe age of 19.

Langston drops back into their lives after he has a bad car accident and injures not just himself, but his passenger; his alleged girlfriend. Dylan is still angry from being ghosted and hates the way her family jumps to cater to “Legendary” as he’s known in the business. However, his presence is also something Dylan needs. He reminds her of the “bucket list” they made when they were younger and says they have to complete it.

I think a lot of teenagers dream of having a celebrity they admire bunking in their basement, which is the appeal here. Imagine Taylor Swift coming to stay in your basement and giving you tips on your dreams of being a classical musician. We want to see celebrities as someone just like us, given the chance. We want to see their lives and ours as somewhat interchangeable.

It helps that both Dylan and Langston are likable. Dylan has grown up in unique circumstances. I liked how they presented her feelings about being adopted. She loves her family but wants to know where she came from. That’s something perfectly normal, but like most adoptees, she’s not sure how her parents will feel about it. Langston has been getting all of the “bad boy” headlines which has his mother concerned, but is actually a good guy who tries to protect everyone around him.

Their rekindled friendship teaches them both a lot, in the long run. That aspect of the story was also well-done, even from an adult perspective. Dylan is ready to write him off due to the ghosting all those years ago, and it takes a lot of work on Langston’s part to get her to trust him again. At the same time, his actions still seem to say that there’s no place for her in his world, and she has to make some very brave and difficult decisions.

I enjoyed Somebody That I Used To Know about as much as I could enjoy any Young Adult book. I think it is a great book for its intended audience.