I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 24th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Verse
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Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned
How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.
Arielle’s life is a blur of new apartments, new schools, and new faces. Since her mother abandoned the family, Arielle has lived nomadically with her father as he moves from job to job. All she’s ever wanted is to stay in one place for an entire school year, and it looks like she might finally get her wish. With a real friend, Monica, who might be even more than a friend soon, things are starting to look up.
But Arielle’s life is upended—and not by her father, but by her mom, who reveals that she never left Arielle. Instead, Arielle’s father kidnapped her, and her mom has been left searching ever since. She wants to take Arielle away, but Arielle has no connection with her mother, and despite everything, still loves her father. How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who sewed that suspicion?
Not one person
on this planet cares about you.
No one but Daddy, who loves you
more than anything in the whole wide
world, and would lay down his life
for you. You remember that, hear me?
I heard those words too often
in any number of combinations
Almost always they came floating
in a fog of alcohol and tobacco.
Arielle has only ever known her dad from an early age. Dependable yet temperamental, he’s taken care of her for years on his own. Bounced from house to house and different woman to woman, Arielle and her father have finally settled down long enough in a town for her to begin to get comfortable. She’s joined the girls basketball team, she’s made friends, and she’s discovered a side of her sexuality that she fears. She’s never had a mom because according to her dad, she left both of them for her lesbian lover. Coming out to her father as the same would be beyond reckless.
Maya has a difficult relationship with her mother. She ran her father out of the house and joined Scientology, expecting Maya to do the same. When her mother tells her they’ll be moving from Texas to Sea Org in Los Angeles, a Scientology organization, she concocts a way to avoid having to go: she gets pregnant. The father, Sergeant Jason Ritter, proposes to her and she feels relief at finally escaping her mother but she’s traded one bad situation for another.
Funny How the Brain
Manages damage control,
windows that overlook
certain footpaths into the past.
I try to keep the shades drawn.
Anything by Ellen Hopkins is bound to pack a punch with the types of subjects she tackles and The You I’ve Never Known is no different. This time she deals with abandonment, sexuality, and abuse, but it felt much more passive than some of her past stories. I’m always incredibly fond of her dual storylines and trying to determine the connection before the big reveal. While her stories are always lengthy in page count, the time it took for that big reveal to happen seemed to be dragged out for longer than was necessary. Often with Hopkins’ writing style, you find yourself getting lost in the beauty of her words. She still used verse as her main writing style and her typical formatting is there but it was much less lyrical and much more dense with a lot of backstory that lacked the passion her stories usually have. The main issue was with how the parents are portrayed. Her villains come in many forms, but in this story, they were the parents of both Maya and Arielle. They were both written as manic and often terrifying people, with little to no redeeming qualities. It was all black, no white, and definitely no gray area, and this lack of complexity caused them to come off as caricatures and nothing more.
Hopkins has long been a favorite of mine and while I felt this one was lacking, her stories still manage to linger in my head long after finishing. She tackles the subjects that most often need to be brought to light, I only wish that she would also focus more on the poetic aspects that make these ugly subjects beautiful.