This is the first book written by Ellen Hopkins that I have had the chance to read, and let me start this review off by telling you that it definitely won’t be my last.
Sometimes it can be hard to write a review for a book that I really like, let alone love with all of my book obsessed heart. This is one of those cases where I read the book quickly, and I’ve been sitting on a review for a bit, because I’m having a hard time composing my puddle of feelings to write something that will encourage you to read it.
If you’ve read other books by Ellen Hopkins, I’m sure you’re going to love this one. If you haven’t read other books by Ellen Hopkins, like me, you shouldn’t miss it, either. It’s powerful, it’s raw, and it’s full of real emotions that haven’t been doctored up to fit what society wants to hear. It’s a book that will throw you for one hell of a loop, and you might find your heart a little shattered and yet somehow even more whole for having read it.
The You I’ve Never Known is written in an interesting way that I didn’t realize when I first picked up the book – it is written in both verse and prose, and I think that really added a bit of something extra to the novel. At first, when I saw that it was over 600 pages, I felt a bit intimidated at first, but I read this in just a day, because it goes by so quickly.
Ariel and her father have always been together – just them against the world, for as long as Ariel can remember. It’s always been new towns, new homes, and new schools, and while her father originally tried to make it sound like an adventure, Ariel just wants a home. She tries not to settle down and make friends, but now, at 17, Ariel is craving the ability to have some real friends, maybe someone to love, and to put down her roots and make a life for herself.
Her father, an alcoholic who spends more time with women, using them for whatever he can, than he does with his own daughter, claims he has tried to do what’s best for Ariel, even if it doesn’t seem like anything he is doing is in her best interest. After leaving the army, he’s never quite been himself since, but Ariel makes the best of her situation.
When Ariel realizes that she just might be falling in love with one of her best friends, she doesn’t really know what to do – her father would kick her out and never speak to her again, because he would never understand. Try as she might to keep her emotions hidden, Ariel has to struggle to come to terms with who she is, as well as confront her past, which is full of surprises that she hadn’t expected.
On the other hand, we have Maya, a teenage girl who lives with her strict Scientologist mother. Maya feels like she needs to get out of her bad living situation, so she does what she can: she meets an older guy in a bar while using a fake ID, and and gets pregnant with his baby. Thinking she can trust him to take care of her, she soon learns that the plan she had might not have been the one that would save her after all.
Ariel and Maya eventually come together and both of their worlds are turned upside down.
Ariel’s story is told through in verse, which added such a lovely touch to the book. It was easy to follow along with, and it really added an extra touch to the book. Maya’s are told in prose, and through journal entries which add plenty to the story.
The You I’ve Never Known is one of those books that I really believe could have had a better worded synopsis to prevent any spoilers, and I’m definitely not going to talk too much on the actual story part, because I hate spoilers. Honestly, I knew exactly what was going to happen with Ariel and Maya from the synopsis of this one, and while it didn’t ruin it for me because the book was so darn amazing, I can see how it could have ruined it for a lot of other people.
The writing in this book was both real and poetic, and it was so easy to get lost in the author’s words. I haven’t read a book that spoke to me quite like this one in a very long time, and it was nice to really and truly devour every line. The story was absolutely gripping, and the author’s note in the back of the book left me heartbroken.
The relationship that blossoms between Ariel and her best friend is one of the most beautiful and honest relationships that I’ve seen in a long time, and it really made the book feel complete. Not only is Ariel struggling to come to terms with who she is while growing up with a father who has no acceptance for her or her choices, she finds a love that feels perfect and right, and that love helps her pull through some of the darker times she ends up going through.
If you’re looking for a fabulous contemporary, I can’t recommend The You I’ve Never Known any more without actually tossing this one at you. It’s such a perfect book and will ignite so many different feelings while reading it. The character development (especially with Ariel) is absolutely phenomenal, and the supporting characters in the book are written just perfectly to make you really enjoy each and every one of them (well, except Ariel’s dad, because he’s a jerk).
Even the pacing was great with this one, not too fast and not too slow. I felt like the first half of the book was spent helping us get to know the two characters that the book follows, and this was nice.
Although a bit predictable, it was one of the best books I’ve read in all the years that I’ve been reading, and I know I’ll read this one over and over again.