Title: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author: Preston Norton
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Source: Physical ARC received from publisher which affected my opinion in no way
My rating: 5 stars
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 no one 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.
Wow, this book totally blew me away! I picked it up while on vacation, and read straight through the first 92 pages in no time! I was laughing out loud and just enjoying it so much! Having a six year old niece on vacation meant that Auntie had to spend lots of time with her. But whenever I got the chance to pick this up, I was lost and couldn't put it down. The characters were so great. When it was pitched to me as a post-millenial Breakfast Club, I was a bit skeptical, but in the end, it really kind of worked out that way! Cliff was really a bit oblivious, but partly because his brother had recently killed himself. And then there was the popular boy, Aaron, the one who got "the list" from God that had to be completed, and that he needed Cliff to help with. Which really, the two of them just gotten in a big fist-fight right before this all happened. Then you had the local drug dealers that hung out in front of the school, the girl who seemed to do nothing but proposition Cliff all the time. She gets into the whole mix-up with the list, and you fall in love with her. The bully, gets what he probably deserves, but also falls in at one point. Then there is the brother of the leader of the Jesus Teens. He is gay, and keeps trying to start a Gay-Straight Alliance group at the school, but his sister has gotten the school to ban all after school groups that are not "class-related". And that is something that becomes a big focus point for Aaron and Cliff with the list. Then the meanest teacher, think of the one in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and that's who you've got here.
All of the characters were just perfect. There were some points that had me crying, but then those tears were often replace with huge laughs from the banter between the characters. When Aaron and Cliff try to help out with the teacher problem, they end up going to mow his lawn. I was just about rolling on the floor with that bit! The teacher threatened to call the cops on them for mowing his lawn, something his home owner's association had actually been posting letters on his door about. I'm not explaining it that great, you've got to pick this book up and read it.
Now, I know there will probably be changes to the book before the finished product hits the shelves. But there was one page that I was reading while I was sitting at Wendy's eating on my travels back home from vacation, and I had to take a picture of it because I couldn't believe all the hilariousness in this one page! So I'm sharing that page below. But just know that it could change before the finished copy, since this was an advanced reader's copy.
I don't know, maybe you have to read it and be in the whole scene to get it. But the "brown" belt comment. And then the part about the iPhone, which I'm an iPhone user, but it still cracked me up!
I cannot WAIT to put this book in my school library next year. I can't wait to share it with a teacher I work with. It has all different kinds of people. Rich, poor, Christian, nerdy, techy, popular, gay, depressed, socially awkward, popular, you name it, that character is in here, and they are portrayed in such a great way.
There's a twist with the brother that I had a bit of an idea of what it might be, but liked the direction the author took it in. Also, it's not just the main characters, but there are so many quirky side characters you have to just laugh at. Like Cliff's mother's boss at the video store. And the principal is great, and just so many great characters in this story.
If you don't pick this one up, you'll regret it, hope you get a chance to do that soon!