Title: The You I've Never Known
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Family, LGBTQ+
Published On: January 24th 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
My Rating: 3 Stars
How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins. For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire. Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined. Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago. What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years? In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.
I’ve read many of Ellen Hopkin’s over the years and I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. Hopkins’ writing style is so unique and unlike what you usually see when reading YA fiction, and that’s because Ellen writes her YA books mostly in verse. I love this. However, this time around, I just couldn’t really love this book or its characters.
The Plot ♥
Ariel is used to living on the run, except she’s never been aware that that’s what it’s been. She thought her father was just a free soul who could never settle down in one location. Then their residence in a small California town starts to seem permanent. Ariel can finally begin to make friends and fall in love while questioning her sexuality. Ariel thinks she might be bisexual. But because of her father’s hateful attitude she struggles to accept herself.
It is clear from the start that Ariel’s dad is abusive and sketchy. And soon enough it is revealed that Ariel isn’t really Ariel. She’s been kidnapped by her father and kept hidden from her mother for most of her life. Ariel is forced to reconsider everything about her childhood and evaluate the truth behind each of her own memories. The You I’ve Never Known is a really sad story about coming of age and growing up but with some twists you don’t typically see in YA contemporaries.
The characters ♥
I couldn’t really connect with Ariel because of some of her activities (drugs, alcohol, etc), which made it harder for me to really invest myself in her story. I liked how she internally resists her father’s abuse, but it upset me that she couldn’t do more to defend herself from his attacks. Both mental and physical.
Her father was a manipulative monster with murderous tendencies, so clearly his relationship with anyone in the novel is unhealthy and sad to read about. I felt like Hopkins accurately portrays this situation and the way the characters would act and feel.
I enjoyed this story, but I felt unsatisfied because of my lack of connection to the main character. If you like any of Hopkins’ other books, you’ll likely enjoy The You I’ve Never Known!