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Monday, January 23, 2017

My Thoughts: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie?

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?

**review copy received from Simon and Schuster Canada for an honest review***

It's been a little while since I have read a novel by Ellen Hopkins. I think the last one was Rumble, which I read about two plus years ago. I am always a little nervous reading one of Hopkins' novels. She doesn't pull her punches and she can be brutally honest sometimes. When I was younger I really appreciated Hopkins' gritty reality.  However, while reading The You I've Never Known, I found myself getting very grumpy with how complicated life is for the teens in this book.

Intense and dramatic is what can be expected from Hopkins. This is completely something you will get in The You I've Never Known. In any of the book I had previously read by Hopkins things were bad, really bad, however it felt realistic and possible. With The You I've Never Known things felt a little like a soap opera. How many things could one character deal with at the same time?

Abandonment, abuse and sexuality are all prevalent themes in The You I've Never Known, and honestly, it didn't always work. Like I said, gritty is what you expect from Hopkins- however they way she chose to address these themes did not work for me. It sort of felt like she wanted to include all of these different scenarios, but couldn't really figure out how to do it, so she forced it, rather than see it if could happen naturally.

Arielle, our seventeen year old protagonist hasn't had the most stable upbringing. Her father was fairly transient and they never had a permanent home, until recently. Finally Ari has a little consistency, she has friends and a job and she's living a normal life. However, she still has a lot to deal with. Her father, who drinks a lot, is often violent with Ari and he makes it no secret that her mother had abandoned her when she was young to be with another woman. Ari is also questioning her own sexuality and the feelings she has for her new best friend who happens to be a girl, she is also confused because she also has feelings for a boy. Maya, also hasn't had it very easy. An emotionally distant mother who has chosen her cult over parenting and a recently dead father. Maya makes decisions out of panic and desperation. And things don't go well for her because of it.

The You I've Never Known is told in classic Hopkins prose and is beautifully written, but it lacks depth and it like I said before, it feels forced. This story isn't as intense and gritty as her usual stories. I want to say this one was almost boring. Nothing really happens. We get the stories of both girls, and we know they have to be connected in some way, and we're trying to figure out how.  But unlike what they synopsis alludes, the two take a long time to come together and when they finally do, it's a little disappointing.

Overall, I didn't really like this book.  I kind of expected more from Ellen Hopkins. If you have never read her before, I think you'll love this one. But if you are a seasoned Hopkins reader, I think you'll be a little let down.

~Happy Reading Everyone!


  1. Very thoughtful review. I can totally see why this book wouldn't work for you. As for me, I'm not 100% sure her writing would work for me, but I would be for sure willing to give it a go and see. I know you say that a Hopkins virgin could go into this and love it, but I think I would still want to start with her original works, do you think?

    1. The writing style is pretty linear. It reads like a normal book. My very first book of her I listened to, and wouldn't have know it had a specific style. And no, I wouldn't start with this one. Tricks was my favourite.


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