Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Poetry
Ellen Hopkins graces us once again with her latest young adult novel: The You I’ve Never Known. This book reflects some experiences that Ellen has faced in her life with her own daughter, so if you know about that or choose to look into her biography, that might spoil this book. While the event with her own daughter happened when the child was three and lasted for three years, the girl in the novel, Ariel, has been going through this so long that she doesn’t even remember or know who she really is.
This novel is about Ariel and her father who travel around a lot. They never stay in one place for too long, which is stressful and hard on Ariel in her academic and social life. When her father meets a girl that might make them stay in one place for awhile, Ariel meets Monica, a girl who she soon comes to love, and Gabe, the son of her father’s new girlfriend, Zelda.
While Ariel experiments with he feelings for both Monica and Gabe, we see a journal-type prose every so often from someone named Maya. Her connection to Ariel is not apparent right away. Maya tells of her time with Jason, a seemingly sweet military man. When she becomes pregnant, she writes a journal for her daughter, Casey, who was taken by her father just to keep something she loved away from her. Why? Because Maya fell in love with another woman.
While I do not want to share too many details and spoil the novel, the twist is definitely one of those Ellen-Hopkins-Worthy twists that connect everything in an awe-inspiring way. The combination of the poetry structure with the prose was an interesting twist compared to her other novels, and it made the reading feel somewhat slower, but switching visual reading structures for each character really differentiated the two and kind of reflects the time gap between the two characters.
While I find this novel to not be quite as interesting and fast-paced as her romance-centered novels, this was a great father/daughter/mother (family) story that we do not see as much focus on in young adult fiction, which was a fresh twist and demonstrates Hopkin’s ability to bedazzle with any content, so yeah, you should read it!