Everyone Knows How Much I Love You, Kyle McCarthy: A Review
It is a strange breed of difficult to write about writing. Done wrong, that dip into the meta can seem pompous and indulgent. Kyle McCarthy, however, tackled that feat with apparent ease in his novel Everyone Knows How Much I Love You.
Lacie is a Harvard graduate struggling to write her first novel. With her agent, she rewrites draft after draft trying to find the perfect balance, but writing doesn't pay the bills, and living in NYC isn't cheap. She takes a job as an SAT tutor, relying heavily on her Ivy league badge to get her more clients, and at the same time, reunites with her estranged best friend, Lucinda. Luc is dating Ian, a mutual friend, and their meeting is, too, loaded. The yin to her yang, she is everything Lacie is not (at least in her mind): beautiful, mysterious, perpetually evasive, and confident. Their relationship is layered and complex, stemming from an incident in high school that they've never talked about, and as the two become roommates, Lacie uses their closeness as inspiration in her book. The line between their lives blurs, however, and soon Lacie's flippant examination becomes an obsession. I've never read anything quite like this. Lacie is a sociopath, not diagnosed but in practice. She experiences emotions from a clinical standpoint, where they never really penetrate to her core. She's self destructive and deliberately cruel without really understanding why, yet for someone who constantly analyzes who she is and what her place in the world is, she's incredibly off-the-mark. The internal dialogue we experience jars with the impression we get (again, through dialogue only) from others around her. She describes herself as musty and plain, while everyone tells her she's a sexual being, hot, desired. Relying on comparisons, she polarizes her friendship with Lucinda, and using their differences to examine what she's missing. In fact, she only seems to be a whole person when she receives validation from Lucinda--but when she does get it, she implodes, taking whoever is in her path down with her. The inherent competition she creates is responsible for a few key turning points in their lives, and the results are catastrophic. McCarthy's development of sexual tension is complex and wrought with conflict. Is Lacie bisexual, or is she using sexuality in order to better understand the differences between her and her best friend? In fact, the discussion of sexuality, perception, and societal standards guides help her test the waters of her own relationships, even if only within her imagination, never really being able to feel satisfaction. Gratification and satisfaction are two completely different things in Lacie's world, and watching her experience intense sexual encounters with the ambivalence of a weather report is unique literary experience. Similar to other infamous characters in this vein, Dexter or Joe Goldberg come to mind, Lacie is removed from her experiences. She talks about morals and standards, yet constantly breaks all the rules she sets for herself: I will not go through my roommate's belongings, op. I'm wearing her bra and dress. I will not sleep with someone's boyfriend; affairs are wrong, op, I slept with someone's boyfriend--and so on, and so forth. There are bigger themes at play here: identity, sexuality, feminism, gender, and I appreciate the naked, raw conversationalist tone of some taboo subjects. It's quiet and loud as you read, no differentiation between a conventional sex life and one of S&M notes, and it's refreshing to see a text raise a healthy discussion of sexual preferences. I will say, if you like your sexual encounters to be implied, this will not be the book for you. Outside those parameters, Everyone Knows How Much I Love You is a unique, beautifully-written novel that gives you a glimpse into the mind of a killer. Haunting, Creepy, and Unnerving, I won't be surprised if this is a Netflix hit someday. Thank you to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.