The You I've Never Known
While this is the first Ellen Hopkins book I have read, THE YOU I’VE NEVER KNOWN assures me that I will be reading another soon. No words are wasted in Hopkins’ dual narrative chronicle as the reader is slowly introduced to both Ariel and Maya. Both points of view are showcased with different writing styles. Ariel’s narration is told in poetry with one poem expertly merging with the next. Maya’s side is characterized by journal entries that skillfully allow the reader to empathize and accept her. Within both narratives resides an ultimate quest for self identity and deceit intended to ensnare the present in a web of lies.
"This is the first Ellen Hopkins book I have read, [but] I will be reading another soon....This book had a very well paced sequence, great development of characters and a natural flow between the two narrators."
The majority of the novel is told through Ariel, age 17, who is accustomed to life on the road with her father and a significant lack of stable relationships. So when Ariel and her dad, Mark Pearson, finally settle down in Sonora because of her dad's new girlfriend, she takes advantage and forms friendships with Syrah and Monica. The reassurance of having a stable home ignites confidence in Ariel as she begins to question her dad’s authority and shaky description of their past. Ariel’s dad has drilled their backstory firmly into place in her mind. After serving time in the army he arrived home only to discover his wife had abandoned him and his then two-year-old daughter in order to marry her best friend, Tatiana. Ariel’s father had no choice but to raise Ariel on his own. Now Ariel isn’t quite as sure that she believes his story. As if confronting her past wasn’t enough, she also has to deal with her love life. She knows she is falling for Monica but has been raised to believe that her feelings are wrong. While she’s sure of her feelings for Monica, someone else has begun to catch her eye. Gabe, her father’s girlfriend’s nephew, has her wondering if she even knows what she wants from a relationship. Just as she starts to get a handle on her life her past collides with her present and forces her to re-evaluate everything she has ever known.
Maya provides interludes from Ariel’s story wherein she delves into her life experiences. Her chronicle begins with her rough home life at age 17. Her mother is more devoted to a fake religion than to raising her daughter, her parents have been divorced since she was 10 years old, and her caring father recently passed away. Her one goal in life is to estrange herself from her family so when she gets a chance, she jumps at it. She initiates a dangerous relationship with Jason Ritter, an army man who is 10 years older than her, in order to escape from her home life. Soon she becomes pregnant which forces Jason into a position of marriage, one that he readily accepts. While her mother doesn’t approve of the relationship she has no power over Maya once she threatens to reveal her mother’s darkest secrets. Maya and Jason have a simple wedding and then transition smoothly into married life. Maya lives with Jason on his army base and she begins to prepare for her first child. Once her daughter is born Maya begins to wonder who she really married. The perfect wife and husband routine gradually fades away as Jason becomes more and more violent. Maya dream of freedom suddenly transforms into a nightmare.
This book had a very well paced sequence, great development of characters and a natural flow between the two narrators. While I thought the majority of this book was done very well, I thought Ariel’s ending was a little abrupt. I would have liked to see what she would have done with her newfound control in life. Additionally, I personally thought the plot was a little too driven by romance but I am generally not the biggest fan of romance novels. Other than those personal points of contempt the novel was excellent. I highly recommend this book to any avid romance readers.
Reviewed by Emily G., Teen Board Member on January 30, 2017