“Dear Fellow Hermit.” The very first words of this novel told entirely in the exchange of two boys’ letters immediately draw the reader into the reclusive world of the two letter writers we meet and hint at the dark undertones which pulse throughout this interestingly constructed narrative.
Because You’ll Never Meet Me, a young adult novel, tells the story of a burgeoning friendship between two boys who for their own reasons, are forced to be withdrawn from society. Oliver, an American boy with blundering charm and ‘a gift for storytelling’ lives in a cabin in the woods and has never seen a cartoon, surfed the internet or ‘seen a humidifier’. Why? Well, to explain would be to ruin a major plot point in the novel, but let’s just say, contact with any of these things would surely be his demise… Then there’s Moritz, Oliver’s pen-pal who lives in Germany and has a pessimistic realism which is rarely found in Young Adult fiction but which makes him all the more appealing. Moritz is a boy with a terrible secret, one which his distrustful nature causes him to reveal slowly and in pieces, the tension and suspense built skilfully in each letter. These two boys seem poles apart but seem to be inextricably linked and yet the extraordinary nature of their circumstances and the existence of a secret could force them apart forever. You see, the amazing and incredibly tragic thing about these boys is that if they ever met, ‘one of them would surely die’…
The stories of these two boys are revealed piece by piece in each successive letter until the novel reaches a shocking and life altering conclusion for both of them. In Oliver’s open, chatty and often times rambling narrative we meet ‘Ollie, Ollie UpandFree,’ Oliver’s narrator and alter-ego, the face he presents to the world. On the surface Oliver’s narration is naive, honest and humorous with a thirst for being alive, but it is later in the novel that we realise the irony of his alter-ego: because whatever else he may be, Ollie is not ‘up’ and he certainly will never be ‘free.’ Oliver’s gift for autobiography is heartening and at times heart breaking and as a reader, you will find yourself waiting on bated breath for the next instalment. Moritz’s narrative by contrast, is entirely opposite. He is guarded, cold and logical and frequently exposes Oliver to the harsh realities of a world he cannot know and yet, there is something in the pain he is hardly able to mask which creates great sympathy for Moritz: a boy burdened by knowing things that he cannot fully understand. He, unlike, his pen-pal has no zeal for living and has knowledge of the harsh realities of life.
This novel which is a foray into the worlds of epistolary writing and science fiction can be read in multiple ways. As is popular at current, it deals not only with questions of friendship but also scrutinises humanity on a deeper level examining what it means to be alive and indeed to have a life – two things which in the world of the novel are certainly not the same. It also deals with the way we view difference, secrets and truths and comments on what we are willing to share with someone we’ve never met. In tackling such board and relevant issues and presenting these through the seemingly innocent eyes of its two child narrators, Because You’ll Never Meet Me has the cross-over appeal of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime for both adults and children.
In its conveyance of this extraordinary friendship, Because You’ll Never Meet Me forces us to examine our behaviour and approach towards life. These two characters have lives which are certainly far from perfect and yet, in the strength they take from each other, they find ways to circumvent the tribulations they are confronted with until letter by letter, they face and conquer their fears, becoming heroes in their own right advocating for anyone who has ever felt marginalised, different or alone.
Thomas’ Because You’ll Never Meet Me is an insightful and inspirational debut which will make you laugh, cry and think. Definitely a must read!
Because You’ll Never Meet Me was published in 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s.