Alex, a high school senior, is recovering in hospital from an event he doesn't remember. Slowly, as Alex pieces together his life before the accident, the reader learns the heartbreaking events that led to his hospitalisation.
Set in Melbourne, Alex's home life is at best, tolerable. His parents are poor at communication, love and support. His father is cruel, his mother submissive and his brothers exist to please their Dad. The most important person to Alex is his four year-old sister Mia, whom he cherishes and would do anything for, and she adores him.
The story is told from Alex's point of view with alternating chapters from before the accident and now as Alex recovers from serious injuries. In the bed opposite Alex, lies Mackie, a girl in a coma. Alex gets to know about Mackie through her scrapbook/diary and this beautiful connection gives him an insight into someone else's pain and life story. Most touching is Mackie's bucket list which gives Alex a new appreciation for the things he took for granted in life.
Lawson's characterisations are strong and real, giving the reader an intimate look at the pain some people inflict on others through their actions. The protagonist's voice is so compelling you won't be able to put this book down. The plot is layered and engaging and the pace varies depending on the setting. Fittingly, when a tragic event is played over in Alex's mind, the pace is fast and had my heart racing before the tears flowed.
This novel has it all by a respected author: developed sub-plots, strong narrative and a realistic ending. A beautiful, beautiful story.
Note: This book explores issues of depression, suicidal tendencies and abuse and may not be suitable for younger readers.
Title: You Don't Even Know
Author: Sue Lawson
Publisher: Black Dog Books, $15.99
Publication Date: 1 September, 2013
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult