Let’s Talk About… The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

First of all, happy Marathon Monday to any fellow Bostonians! I’m finnaly getting around to finishing this post on this beautiful Easter Sunday. I just sat outside in the wonderful 84 degrees Boston weather for a few hours which was very refreshing and mind-clearing. Much needed relaxation outdoors even though I was sort of working on a project at the same time.

Here’s my review of The You I’ve Never Known at long last:

I received access to an electronic ARC of this book through Edelweiss and I was super excited to see this title pop up to request! The You I’ve Never Known is the first Ellen Hopkins book I have ever read, and I was very interested to see how I’d like it. I have heard great things about the way Ellen writes, using poetry and in this book she combines the prose with the usual poetry layout. I mean, the poems read basically like prose anyways and I pretty much forgot that I wasn’t reading paragraphs for 85% of this novel. Still, I liked that it was a different way of telling a story than I have read before.

I would normally attach the Goodreads synopsis of the book here, but I read their description after I finished the book and I felt like it would have given away too much for me if I read it first. So I’ll link it here but read at your own discretion. Here’s my personal synopsis:

Ariel is 17 and she can’t quite figure out who she is. She knows that she has feelings for her best friend, but that she’s also attracted to boys. Ariel’s father is a rough man who has moved all around the country with his daughter, never settling anywhere too long until they end up in Sonora, California. Ariel finally gets to a point where she is rooted somewhere long enough to make friends and form relationships and that is both exciting and scary for her. The only solid connection she’s ever had is with her father who claims her mother ran off to become a lesbian and deserted her two year old daughter in cold blood.

Maya is almost 17, living in Texas with her Scientologist mother who pays hardly any attention to what Maya does on a regular basis. Maya and her best friend Tatiana go out with their fake IDs one night to have a few drinks and meet older men. Maya falls for a kindhearted soldier and ends up pregnant with his child. This is her way out. She leaves home to get married to Jason, the father of her baby and a soldier in the Army. They end up moving out East to an army base where they begin their family life.

I definitely enjoyed reading this novel and I’ll be much more revealing with my thoughts in the rest of this review. I don’t think I can say anything else without spoiling the story for those who haven’t read it yet!

My rating: 4 stars

I gave this book a high rating mainly because I felt like I could believe that these characters could be real people, at least most of the time. Gabe seemed to have a little too many skills that were convenient for the plot, but I did like him.

This is a story about self-discovery for both Ariel and Maya, each in their own way.

Ariel has grown up with just her father, a harsh ex-military man who is usually drunk and occasionally abusive. She is at the age where she is exploring her sexuality and figuring out where she lies on this complex spectrum, but has always been fed negativity about being lesbian. Her father has always held a grudge against Ariel’s mother for “running away from him with a woman” and Ariel has formed her resentment for her mother based on this constantly repeated mantra of her dad’s. Now, Ariel thinks she may be lesbian, or bisexual, and she is having less trouble reconciling with that then I think I expected her to. I figured when she started experimenting with Monica that she would feel guilty in some way, she doesn’t want her dad to know but she also feels more comfortable with the situation than Monica does even though Monica knows with absolute certainty that she is only attracted to women. It frustrated me a little bit that Monica was so unwilling to come out to her family when they were painted as such a loving and supported family, the opposite of what Ariel has at home. I liked Zelda’s character because she kind of took on a mother-figure role for Ariel even though Ariel resisted her a bit. I know Ariel was reluctant to accept a woman into her life because she resented her own mother so much. I get that. But I’m glad Zelda was always there for her.

There’s an array of different family dynamics throughout this book that made it even more interesting. Ariel is very loyal to her father even though he is harsh and abusive to her. She doesn’t know what it’s like to live in a stable environment such as the one Monica has grown up in. Gabe is going through a huge loss and had to get away from his mother who has become emotionally unstable after losing her husband. He is a lovign person though who looks forward to being reunited with his mom when she has done some healing. Then there’s Maya who’s mother is a crazy Scientologist that Maya runs away from to marry Jason after they find out they’re going to have a baby together.

Of course the big twist is that Maya is actually Ariel’s mother. I put these pieces together pretty early on. Pretty much when I read the journal entry about September 11, 2001. At that point I realized that Maya’s parts were from the past and that Casey was probably Ariel. I don’t know if that was obvious for everyone, but I wasn’t too thrown when the twist was fully revealed towards the end. I’m glad Ariel decided to give her mother a chance because she is definitely better off with Maya than she was with Mark/Jason.

I don’t really have anything else to say. I think this was a well crafted novel that told a story of Ariel discovering her identity and it was a really cool concept to me. Good book, give it a read if you have the chance 🙂 Tell me what you thought of The You I’ve Never Known in the comments below!

Katie x

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