Monday, January 23, 2017
My Thoughts: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
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!