Reviewed by David T. Valentin
As You Walk on By
By Julian Winters
Narrated by André Santana
As You Walk on By follows Theodore Wright, a shining track star in his high-school and a student at the top of his class just trying to live up to his father’s expectations and uphold his exceptional legacy. When his best friend Jay dares him to ask another boy out to prom at a senior’s house party, Jay finds himself instead in the empty room of the party host’s little sister’s room. Theo tries his best to get away, but little does he know he’s got company coming his way all night. That unexpected company ends up changing the course of his life overnight as him and his unexpected Company peel back the layers of each of their personalities to get to who they really are.
As You Walk on By is the YA of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. Just as in Anxious People, As You Walk on By puts together an unlikely crew of people who are just trying to get through life as best as they can. As the anxiety of returning to the party keeps them in the room together, each running from a version of themselves they’re not proud of, they find unlikely common ground beyond their stereotypes: the gay athlete, the misunderstood boy, the popular girl, the nerd, and the misunderstood fiery spirit.
What makes As You Walk on By a memorable experience is the way everything comes full circle, the way everything seems to connect. But what ties all its theme together is the way the title, As You Walk on By, takes on its meaning by the conclusion of the book. While at the surface, it refers to those walking by at the party, it refers to the amount of time we spend in each other’s lives.
As you walk on by, whether that be for a few days, months or years, who do you choose to be when you pass through someone’s life, however brief that passing may be? How do you affect another’s life, even for the briefest of moments in time?
It’s a question teenagers ask themselves constantly, but the growing stressors of life never allow some teenagers to ever answer that question truly until they’re desperately floundering through life as adults. Even worse, the growing stressors of life and unrealistic expectations set forth upon them by whomever sometimes never allows teenagers to ask for help with such a question.
It is why As You Walk on By shines so brightly by the conclusion of the book. It reminds us to be intentional with our time, to be our truest selves not just for the sake of ourselves but for the sake of looking out for each other as well.