Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
By Preston Norton
416 pages – ages 15+
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 5, 2018
Synopsis from Publisher- “Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous-6’6″ and 250 pounds to be exact. He has nobody at school, and life in his trailer-park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide.
There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal.
To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS, Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.”
What I Thought- Wow. This book was so powerful, I really don’t know where to start. Norton has a knack for getting inside his character’s head, portraying teen life rather accurately. This has its ups and downs – I just want to mention that the book is definitely Young Adult. Nortan’s poignant story shows teenagers in all their glory and horrors in such a marvelous way and completely gritty way. We, the readers, need to hear this story – it’s a story of dejection and a story of hope. About fighting for a cause even as you’re called insane. About doing what is right, not what is standard. One of the things I liked about the premise was that even though the entire story revolves around the near-death experience and seeing God – the book isn’t so much about whether God exists or not (even though that conversation does come up a few times) but more about doing the right things. Cliff is a kid who isn’t necessarily the best person in the school, but we the readers still care for him because we see his story and can empathize with his emotional reactions. There are a lot of mature topics being broached, with drug addicts, abusive families, alcoholism, etc. There is no graphic violence and sex, although there is a fight scene or two – and at one point one of the main characters is confessing that he cheated on his girlfriend for another girl. I am definitely looking forward to reading more works by Norton. I honestly may have found one of my favorite young adult novels of this year.
I give this book five out of five bookworms.
Categories: 13+ (YA)